05/ 22/ 16
The Lantern Festival is a lustrous celebration of Chinese New Year, where people illuminate lanterns with wishes for good fortune and new beginnings off into the night sky. It’s something I’ve always wanted to attend, and I’ve envisioned my first lantern festivity taking place in Taiwan, where my dad is from, or at least somewhere authentically in Asia.
While scrolling through my Twitter feed on a Friday afternoon, a headline catches my eye: “The Lantern Festival Is Coming to Metro Denver in April.” Not quite Asia, but I’m excited nonetheless. I purchase two tickets and send a Google calendar invite to Dan.
The day of the event arrives and we make it out to Colorado’s National Speedway. We’re greeted by a long, unwieldy entrance line. “Oh boy,” I think, “This line must mean it’s gonna be really, really good.” (I blame living in San Francisco for that twisted logic.)
We eventually make it inside the speedway: a dirt field dotted with promotional tents, families clamoring to buy hot dogs and 42 oz sodas, and an MC throwing candy into an audience of screaming children. I quickly realize this isn’t quite the cultural experience I had long dreamed of.
Left to our own devices until sundown, Dan and I ruminate on our hopes for the future and things we want to accomplish. We draw them out on our lanterns. I am slayed by the dance contests happening on stage — especially by the brave father shaking his booty amidst a troupe of moms.
Everyone gets antsy as we await lantern launch time. Despite the MC warning us not to light up early, we see a twinkling wish float up into the night — and then another, and another. Rogue lanterns pepper the dark horizon, like fireflies twinkling in the distance.
Finally, the MC gives his launch cue, and in an instant, hundreds of glowing paper lanterns gracefully climb upwards. Dan sends his lantern off with ease, and then comes to help me with mine, which is taking an oddly long time to fill with hot air.
“Oh no,” I panic, “There’s a hole in my lantern!” Cue a moment of sheer terror — partially because my superstitious side thinks my wishes won’t come true, and partially because I remember the hours of “family-fun” we had to endure to get to this point. Dan, cool and collected, grabs a piece of gum from his backpack, quickly chews it up, and patches my lantern back together. My lantern takes flight, propelling my hopes for the future out into the world.
Dan and I watch in awe as a sea of burning wishes hang tranquility in the sky. I realize how lucky I am to have a partner who lifts me up, and helps me see the good in every situation. Perhaps Denver’s first Lantern Festival was more powerful than I initially gave it credit for, gently reminding me that the joys in life often stem from who you’re with, and not what you’re doing.