After a relaxing day with a good friend, board games, and several loads of laundry at someone else’s apartment, Chris and I were crossing the river home when we noticed the air lit up with dozens of giant red lanterns, filled with fire, and floating gently on the breeze.
Today is Mid Autumn Moon Festival, one of the more significant holidays in China. Everyone brings around the moon cakes to work associates and then spends a few days with family, eating a lot of delicious food and watching television. I compare it to the American holiday of Thanksgiving, as we tend to have similar traditions.
Save for one very special twist: fire red lanterns sent forth into the sky and flowery floating candles set sail upon the river.
Tonight we parked the car on the side of the road and wandered into the river bank lantern scene.
I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “gentle” to describe a moment in China, but that was the feel of tonight. There was something of a hush over the crowd as groups of friends and young couples and families with small children held their lanters and cajoled the flaming contraptions of paraffin and paper skyward.
Every time one achieved finally achieved lift off there was a moment of silence, of prayers being offered and wishes being cast up along with the graceful lanterns.
Chris and I paid a man 3 kuai for a small tissue paper flower lantern then carried it carefully down to the river’s edge. We held the lantern, together made a wish, then let it go.
Then we stood and watched as it floated away and as other families took our place on the water’s edge to send their own lanters quietly afloat along a current now lit with the hopes and dreams of a whole city.
I felt like I could almost understand this ritual. For two or three kuai your dreams all somehow seem just within and then just beyond reach. You watch, as soft tea lights bob along in the river, protected from extinguishment by the most delicate of papers. You watch as glorious glowing lanterns of red and fire become just tiny dots above before extinguishing and falling back gently to the world below.
And then, it feels like a real metaphor for the struggles of each person along the river to attain something for themselves, for a loved one, or for a child. It represents of the fragility of life and the enduring brightness of hope, all wrapped up in a beautiful 3 kuai bit of paper magic.
Internet is slowing down so no more pictures for the night. Happy Mid Autumn Moon Festival everyone, I hope this season is beautiful for you and that all of your own hopes and wishes, and dreams for it come true.