We normally associate celebrations for Chinese New Year in London with Central London, with the extravagant parade of decorations, dancing, dragons and entertainment. This year to celebrate the year of the Monkey we were treated to an alternative celebration, the Magical Lantern Festival in Chiswick House; the first ever of its kind.
The festival is open from Wednesday 3rd February 2016 until Sunday 6th March 2016 and tickets for adults and children range from £10-£18. Chiswick House and Gardens is an example of the English landscape garden with a neo-Palladian design – based on the Italian architecture of Andrea Palladio. A grand location, transformed to a spectacular exhibition of lights, culture and art.
The festival marks the end of The Chinese New Year celebrations and takes place on the 15thday of the first month of the lunar calendar. This year the festival falls on Monday 22nd February 2016. The origins of the Lantern Festival dates back 2000 years, as early as the Han Dynasty. Monks would light and release lanterns to show their respect to Buddha.
The Chinese culture is one that has become more and more embedded in London’s multiculturalism. According to the Office of National Statistics there are just under 125,000 people in London who identify themselves as Chinese. This festival is an opportunity for those who have not been able to visit China in a while to celebrate the tradition here in London.
Hosting the festival in London sees East meeting West and this is demonstrated with the representation of animals associated with China, like the pandas, mixed with animals found here in the UK, such as red squirrels. To end your journey through the maze of lanterns, you are greeted with three life size red telephone box lanterns in the food hall; an iconic symbol of London. Naz Kabir, from the lantern festival, explained that “Londoners love culture they really embrace and learn from other cultures more than any other city in the world” and this was one of the reasons that London was chosen for the premiere.
All of the lanterns were designed by the team from Weli Creative in London and then created and brought to life in China by Chinese artists. Once complete the lanterns were dismantled, packed and brought to London in 22 shipping containers. 50 of the artists also came to London to rebuild the displays. It took a total of 300 days to make and was made from 50 tons of steel and 58,000 LED bulbs. Most of the visitors that we spoke to at the festival appreciated the hard work that had gone into making the festival and the beauty of the overall exhibition.
“It’s different, it’s just pure lights compared to Soho where you get a lot of hustle and bustle.”
“We don’t really get another chance to see these, and I would come again next year”
“I like that every lantern was very different, clearly made by different people”
Visitors enjoyed the reflections of the lights on the lake and most of all many loved the magnificent 66m long dragon. Speaking to Carol Yang, from the Lantern Festival we learnt that the Dragon represents the King and the Phoenix represents the Queen – during the days of the Emperor only the Emperor and the Empress could were these on their clothes. Visitors also commented on the cultural representation of China and London.
“A good contrast giving both sides of the world”
“It goes back a long time and its interesting how they have incorporated the history into the lights”
The festival will become an annual event in London, so if you miss it this year you can check it out again next year.