Monday, 22 February 2016

Auckland's Chinese Lantern Festival

 I bit the bullet on Friday and attended Auckland's lantern festival. My aversion to crowds meant that I have avoided it for the last few years but when I heard it had moved to a much more spacious venue I thought it was worth another visit.

Living in a large multicultural city has great benefits; there are numerous authentic, ethnic restaurants around the city serving delicious food from all corners of the globe and an increasing number of cultural festivals to enjoy. The downside is that there are also large crowds attending those same festivals.

2016 is the year of the Monkey
  Since Aucklanders of Chinese heritage now make up 10% of Auckland's population it is fitting that the Lantern Festival, timed to coincide with Chinese New Year, has become one of New Zealand's most popular festivals.  Held over four days it is a combination of stunning lanterns,specially created in Sichuan, China, which are hung from trees and scattered around the gardens, cultural performances and asian ethnic food stalls.  No wonder it is popular!

I think I played it just right this year.  I arrived early in full daylight.  Found parking very close to the venue, bought my dinner before any queues had formed and enjoyed the slowly developing spectacle as the sun went down and darkness descended. I watched martial arts displays, musical performances and, of course, the lion and dragon dances. Having viewed all the lanterns in their glory I made my way home as the crowds continued to swell to almost impossible proportions.  I felt very content if not slightly smug as I passed the food stalls with queues of 50 or more. Nevertheless the good thing about the new venue, the Auckland Domain, is that there is plenty of space surrounding the festival area to picnic and watch the festivities from a distance, away from the crush, if it gets too much for you.

Here are some of my photos from the night, they don't really do the lanterns justice.

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