Lumilantern Festival introduces Chinese culture


Katerina Gaines

2020 is the Year of the Rat, for people born in the years of the rat, 2020 is said to bring good fortune in wealth and career.

An archway adorned with two gleaming dragons welcomes you to the festival. Once you pass through, you find yourself in front of a glowing safari of animals displaying anything from pandas to dinosaurs and woolly mammoths.

To your right, you see a display of each Chinese zodiac animal in the form of giant lanterns. Beyond the safari lies the forest of a million lights filled with rows of trees decorated with moving multicolored lights.

Welcome to the annual Alameda County LumiNight Lantern Festival. 

The Luminight Festival strives to represent and showcase Chinese culture. Every lantern was created by a Chinese artisan. Many visitors came to the festival in celebration of the Chinese New Year. The festival displayed the Great Barrier Reef, Noah’s Ark, and other animals, as well as a forest filled with dancing lights.

At the entrance of the festival, artisan Vivian Deng displayed a variety of handmade crafts, including tapestries, fans, intricate pop-up cards, and jewelry. Deng appreciated being able to share her culture with visitors.

“I like celebrating with so many American people, and I feel proud to introduce my culture to the western world; the festival is like a bridge for both cultures to get to know each other,” Deng said.

The Chinese zodiac is made up of twelve animals that were officially recognized over 2,000 years ago during the Han Dynasty. Since then, they have been used in stories and traditional folklore, although many still see the truth in the zodiac animals to this day.

2020 is the Year of the Rat, and it is the first in the lunar cycle. The rat represents strong vitality. This year is said to bring luck to those born in the Year of the Rat, especially in their wealth and career.

“I know people who take these [Chinese zodiacs] very seriously, and they feel that you have to match with the right person, or you won’t get married,” said Larissa Seto, a visitor.

Although the Chinese zodiac still plays an influential role in modern-day society, many come to the festival purely for fascination in the impressive showcase of lights and larger than life-size lanterns.

“The magnitude of everything is impressive. The pictures do not do it justice. Everything is so big, and it’s just magnificent and grand,” said Christina Winnicki, a visitor. 

The lantern festival offered a way for people to enjoy time with their families and learn about Chinese culture in an unexpected way.

“It’s nice to see families out here and see people with their kids. It’s a beautiful evening, and it gives people something to do in their own town,” Seto said.

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