Throughout the holiday season in Cary, North Carolina, the Koka Booth Amphitheatre hosts its annual Chinese Lantern Festival.The program, begins the day after Thanksgiving and lasts seven weeks.
More than twenty lighted displays are placed throughout the easy accessed parts of the lot. They each contain many complex parts and thousands of LED lights each.
In 2016, almost 100,000 people visited. Every year, the attraction becomes more popular and attracts more people from all corners of the Triangle Area.
Indianapolis, Columbus, and Little Rock are the only other cities in the United States that host similar elements. Many people visit due to the rarity of the occasion and the cultural experience provided.
“I think it’s important that Raleigh hosts the event because some people don’t realize what it’s like around the world and they get a little hint at this by going to the festival. It kind of raises awareness for places far away, and I think that’s really cool,” said Sydney Tripoli, a sophomore at Leesville who attended opening week.
The festival includes Chinese drumming and dance performances on the main stage alongside the light displays every night. The shows supply visitors insight into how China residents traditionally celebrate the holidays. Not only does this bring new culture aspects to North Carolinians, it gives viewers a deeper appreciation for distant societies.
Although they are a rare sight in the United States, lanterns have been a major part of the culture of China since ancient times. They were once used to protect the flame from windy weather and then later developed into items used to worship Buddha during the Eastern Han Dynasty.
Nowadays, lanterns have progressed into objects used to express festivity. Streets in both small towns and big cities are covered in lanterns during the Chinese New Year, Lantern Festival, and Mid-Autumn Festival. Although they truly have no practical use, the presence of the lighted items is traditional and extremely important to those with a Chinese heritage and upbringing.
Introducing customs like the Chinese Lantern Festival to the United States expands the knowledge and appreciation that people have for the culture of China. The event hosted by Koka Booth is also a great experience for all ages and interests.
“There were…shows [at the festival] that were kind of freaky, but I thought they were really cool because they showed the Chinese culture and it’s not something you see everyday in Raleigh,” said Tripoli.
The festival will continue through January 14 and tickets start for sale at $10. Make sure to check out the water-spitting dragon and other fascinating light displays before the season ends.