This weekend was Christchurch’s annual Lantern Festival. For two nights, the CBD was bursting with locals and tourists celebrating Chinese New Year and welcoming in the Year of the Dog.
This year marked the festival’s return to the center of town after the 2011 earthquake. For the past several years, it was temporarily moved to Hagley Park as the city was being rebuilt.
Sure, there were some kinks to work out, especially around the flow of the event, but it was clear to me that people were excited to be there. Sometimes in Christchurch, it can feel like the only people in town either have office jobs or are construction workers. It was refreshing to see the city come to life, radiating the relaxed energy of people off the clock. Don’t worry though, there was still plenty of high vis clothing present (a Christchurch fashion favorite).
The event sprawled across town and featured lanterns all along the Avon River, food stalls on Worcester Street, and two performance spaces, a smaller stage along the river and the main stage in Cathedral square.
Reports are estimating that over 50,000 people attended the festivities!
Walking along the Avon with Pete, we took in the beauty of the paper lanterns hidden in the natural landscape, stopping every now and then to watch performances of traditional Chinese songs and dances.
Cathedral Square was bursting with life. Several stalls offered activities for kids, like decorating paper lanterns or learning about Christchurch’s sister city, Wuhan. Other stalls were selling a wide assortment of light up gizmos, the stuff of childrens’ dreams and minimalists’ nightmares.
Pro tip: With so many people walking around, I would leave your pets at home for this one. In addition to the crowds, there was also a lot of drumming that could further stress out your pup.
My favorite performance of the night was a dragon dance performed by the Qiao Yi Lion Dance Team. Listening to the drums and watching the dragons dance around the stage was a sight to see, and I’ll admit I think I got as into it as the kids around me.
The only thing I’d do differently next year is I’d go a bit later in the evening when the sun has fully set and the lanterns can really shine.
Did you check out a Chinese Lantern Festival this year? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!