San Jose Water Lantern Festival ignites a sense of community



In a powerful celebration of life, residents designed and released hundreds of lanterns during the San Jose Water Lantern FestivalCrowds of enthusiastic festival-goers gathered to kick back, relax, and enjoy the experience of the third annual festival.

For many, the event is a tradition that brings together family and friends from across the Bay Area.

“A lot of times, people come here for a memorial celebration or self-expression when they release their lanterns together as a community,” said Jenny, one of the event coordinators. 

From the moment one enters the event, they are greeted by a wide variety of food trucks and live music. Attendees brought blankets, settled in, and enjoyed an unforgettable night.

“Everybody that walks away from these events talks about it for months. This is one of the things that will definitely stick in people’s memories,” said an employee of Happy Days Donuts, one of the many food stands present at the festival.

Each ticket purchase included a drawstring bag, wristband, marker, and water lantern. While enjoying the food and ambiance, many attendees began to personalize their lanterns and prepared to set them free into the lake.

Along with live music, a few brave souls took the stage to share their emotional stories of loved ones and traditions that they’ve started.

Behind the stage, activities like corn hole were available to guests all evening long.

As the sun began to set, it was finally time to release the lanterns onto the water. Everyone put the finishing touches on their designs, placed LED lights inside their lanterns, and approached the lake. Hundreds of lanterns adorned with expressive messages, hopes, and memories were launched.

For some, they symbolized their aspirations and important milestones.

“With letting go of the lantern today, I guess it was kind of like a stress-free and relaxing feeling. It felt good not to get something off my chest, but rather to put something out there,” said Tristan, an attendee of the festival.

Pullquote Photo

On my lantern, I would have angel wings. I have been here before, and I really liked it last time.”

— A young festival-goer

For others, however, it meant letting go of painful memories and honoring lost loved ones. Some even prayed before releasing their lanterns.

Whatever the case, each lantern meant something different to every artist.

“I guess my lantern just embodies multiple aspects of myself and things I like. One of my favorite quotes is ‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,’ so I wrote it on my lantern,” said Jenica, another participant of the festival who chose not to reveal her last name. 

Though the lanterns remained on the lake as the night came to an end, the crowds were able to take their memories of the night with them.