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The Festival of Lanterns lights up the town of Cassino

The Italian stop in the initiative supported by Chinese companies working in Italy

For the first time, the International Chinese Lantern Festival comes to Italy, to the town of Cassino in the province of Frosinone, which from December 8th through March 20th next year will host one of the most spectacular colour and light shows in the world. A show within the show, considering that it will be the suggestive thematic Bosco delle favole, the Fairytale Forest, that will be transformed into a magical space: over 300 giant lanterns from around the world, illuminated with 2.5 km of LED lights will be installed over a surface area of 110,000 square meters.

The use of lanterns for purposes of celebration in China is a very ancient practice, dating back to the Han dynasty between 206 and 200 B.C., when Buddhist monks lit lanterns on the fifteenth day of the Lunar year in honour of Buddha. The rite was progressively adopted by the people and spread throughout China and other parts of Asia. But the Festival of Lanterns, known in China as Yuan Xiao, originated in the legend of the Emperor You Di: the story is that in retaliation for the murder of one of his geese, he planned to burn an entire city to the ground. To save the population, a fairy suggested lighting lanterns throughout the city on the day the destruction was going to take place. The emperor, confused by all those lights, thought the city had been destroyed by fire. It was therefore spared of its fate and in gratitude the population continued to commemorate the event every year by lighting coloured lanterns.

Since then, the festival has become an institution, an opportunity for reconciliation, peace and forgiveness. It is celebrated on the first full moon of the new Lunar year and the end of Chinese New Year. Homes are decorated with coloured lanterns which are often printed with riddles, and those who guess them correctly receive a small gift. To celebrate the end of Chinese New Year, the lanterns are released into the sky with good luck messages. The festivities are accompanied by dancing and fireworks, and it is traditional to eat small sticky rice balls filled with fruits and nuts, called yuanxiao or tangyuan. The round shape of the rice balls symbolises family unity.

From China, the festival has now spread to the West: after Amsterdam, London, Miami, Tokyo, Tallin, Shanghai and New York, this year Italy will be hosting the “Lanternia” festival, thanks to a more than 4 million euro investment by Chinese companies working in the country, and with the patronage of the People’s Republic of China. At the Bosco delle Favole in Cassino, the lanterns will be installed in the six thematic areas Dreamland, Fantasyland, The Kingdom of Christmas, Fairytales from Around the World, The Animal Kingdom, Colorandia, and every week thematic lanterns will be created and live shows and events will be organised.

On the cover: Wonderland © Joel Codina


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