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8 Tips For Your First Lantern Festival

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

For our first anniversary last year, I bought my boyfriend tickets to a lantern festival. Now, let me be honest- I used our anniversary as an excuse to get them for myself. I have always wanted to go. When I saw the traveling sky lantern festival was selling tickets for an event in Mohnton, Pennsylvania (just an hour away from UD), I decided to grab tickets while I could. This was one of the best weekends of my entire life- but we made some mistakes. 

We booked a hotel just a few minutes away from the event grounds. I won’t name this hotel but let’s just say… Tip #1- make sure to read the reviews before booking a hotel that is ‘probably fine’. We drove the nine miles from our hotel to the event grounds and sat in tons of traffic. This specific racetrack where the event is held is seemingly in the middle of nowhere. We took exclusively back roads all the way there. But once we parked, walked to the line, and stood in the sweltering heat for what seemed like forever, we were finally in. Tip #2- bring water and sunscreen.

We got our lanterns and our wristbands and entered the event. It was so lively! From a photographer, Tip #3- bring your camera. There were so many photo ops. There was great live music, tons of souvenir stands, and a very exciting crowd of people. Once we grabbed some snacks, we found a spot on the grass to sit and decorate our lanterns. 

According to my very brief research before the event, I learned that the tradition began and is celebrated in China and other Asian countries. Typically practiced on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar, the celebration is meant to honor one’s ancestors, while also promoting peace, forgiveness, and good fortune. When we decorated our lanterns, we were sure to include lots of messages of good fortune for ourselves and others, messages, and doodles (just for fun). 

It started to get dark, and we were absolutely swarmed with bugs. Tip #4, bug spray. Lots of bug spray. The announcer let everyone know that it was almost time to release the lanterns. Tip #5 - read the instructions on how to light and release your lantern well before this time. We were scrambling to find the paper that explained the process, and watch other people around us prepare. The announcer started counting down… and ours weren’t even lit yet. Their lighters weren’t amazing, and the combination of the slightly wet cardboard we were meant to light and the wind did not help the situation. 

Of course, the announcer began the countdown and we were mortified and very upset that we were unable to light ours in time. My boyfriend kept working on it while I grabbed my camera. The announcer indicated to release your lanterns. The previously dark sky lit up with beautiful lanterns. Music and laughter and cheers filled the air. I could barely take any photos- my eyes were tearing up. Unfortunately, my boyfriend saw and thought I was upset that we were unable to quickly light our lanterns. But then I told him to look up. And we stood for a moment, with our completely deflated lanterns, gawking at the beautiful scene of the hundreds of little lights floating up to the sky. Tip #6- Let the first wave of lanterns go before starting yours; it is way more fun to watch them start than stress about doing your own. Of course we eventually let ours go, and we were able to get tons of wonderful pictures and videos of us and the joyful people around us. There were extra lanterns for sale, so the event went on longer than expected - but I am not complaining. Every second of it was so exciting. 

Eventually we made our way out of the event and sat in tons of traffic on the way back to the hotel. We sat with the windows down, listening to music, enjoying the hum of the cicadas, and reminiscing on the amazing night we had. We got to McDonalds at one in the morning and then crashed at our gross hotel. We slept through continental breakfast but we didn’t care. Tip #7- if you want to eat, get up before 10 a.m. 

Even though it seems the entire weekend was flawed in some way, it was the most amazing experience. We created so many memories, and a tradition we can do every single year. Finally, Tip #8- don’t dwell on your crappy hotel room, your burnt cheeks, your bug bites, your unlit lantern, or your missed breakfast. The weekend wouldn’t have been as memorable without all of those things. 

Grace Sweetman

Delaware '23

Grace Sweetman is currently a junior at the University of Delaware, studying Interpersonal Communications and Women and Gender Studies. She is passionate about writing, photography, and social media.
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