2021 NC Chinese Lantern Festival Now Open

Cary, NC — It is officially opening night for the NC Chinese Lantern Festival, a tradition making its return to Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre for its 6th year after being canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Tickets for the festival are available now online and this year’s display of more than 2,500 lanterns is sure to impress. The 2021 festival runs through January 9, 2022 and has brought 36 all-new displays to the grounds of the amphitheatre, showcasing the beauty and artistry of Chinese culture.

Much more than just an Instagram-worthy photo op, the festival is also a unique opportunity to learn about Chinese culture and the meaning behind each display.

The experience of enjoying the NC Chinese Lantern Festival is multi-dimensional in that there are lanterns to see and also performances to enjoy each night that are rooted in Chinese arts and history. Plus, younger kids especially will be mesmerized by the interactive displays such as a foot piano, a smoke ring cannon and light-up swings. 

The iconic floating dragon has also returned to the edge of Symphony Lake, measuring approximately 200 feet long. The dragon stands 21 feet high and weighs a whopping 6,600 pounds. Installing the dragon’s head alone took a crane and a 15-person crew.

The Festival is a production of Tianyu Arts & Culture, Inc., in cooperation with the Town of Cary. Only the select communities of Seattle, Oakland, Oklahoma City, Little Rock and suburban Orlando join Cary as hosts to Tianyu-produced Chinese lantern festivals during this holiday season.

Cary hosts more than 25 Chinese artisans and performers who arrive in North Carolina in late October/early November to hand assemble lanterns and prepare for exciting Chinese cultural performances during this annual celebration.

The ancient art of Chinese lantern making began in the Han Dynasty from about 206 BC to 220 AD, known as a significant period for science and innovation.

Here are some more unique facts about this year’s display, courtesy of Koka Booth Amphitheatre:

  • Each lantern is created by hand on silk fabric stretched over steel frames and then lit with upwards of hundreds of LED.
  • Lanterns are designed exclusively for this event with materials shipped from China into the North Carolina Ports in Wilmington.

  • It took 15+ tractor-trailers to deliver materials for our visiting artisans to assemble this year’s 36 lantern groupings.
  • Most lanterns are made in only one city: Zigong, in the Sichuan province, the lantern capital of China for many centuries.

  • Our visiting artisans have lantern-crafting skills that are passed down from one generation to the next.
  • Most traditional Chinese lantern festivals are celebrated on the 15th day of the first month in the lunar calendar, marking the last day of the lunar New Year. This tradition dates back 2000 years.

  • In ancient times, lanterns were fairly simple and only the emperor and noblemen had large, ornate ones. In modern times, lanterns have been embellished with complex designs such as the ones on display here in Cary.
  • The prominence of red in the designs symbolizes good fortune in the New Year.

For those sharing photos, the official hashtags for the event are #CaryNC and #NCChineseLanternFestival.


Story and photos by Ashley Kairis.

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