Mother Nature Would Approve
I still remember looking at the impossible color combinations on the tropical fish at the Baltimore Aquarium and thinking to myself, “You just can’t improve on Mother Nature.” But that was before I saw the insanely colorful displays at the Chinese Lantern Festival in Philadelphia last night. Leave it to the Chinese to finally crack the code.
LED lights are the source of the un-natural color lantern displays that decorate Franklin Square near our city’s Chinatown. The show originated in China but is currently touring a handful of U.S. cities and Philadelphia was lucky enough to snag it for a 7-week run (ends June 12).
It’s one of those things you almost have to see to believe but the Festival features 28 over-the-top lantern displays, from this fiery 200-foot dragon, to exquisite lotus flowers, a panda playground, floral arches and a breathtaking four-story pagoda.
The smaller lanterns were shipped directly from the mainland but the larger exhibits were actually handmade on-site.
All of the displays are illuminated from within against a jet black night sky that gives the Festival an other-worldly setting and feel.
Lantern Festivals are a 2,000 year old Chinese tradition that started with the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 AD - 220 AD) about the same time Buddhism was being introduced in China. They are celebrated on the night of the first full moon of the Chinese lunar year to symbolize the coming of spring.
According to custom, families would join in the fun by lighting up their own beautifully decorated lanterns and take them on a moonlight stroll while watching fireworks, guessing riddles pasted on passing lanterns, and munching on rice glue balls.
Make that glutinous rice glue balls (featuring “fragrance, sweetness, freshness, smoothness and glutinosity”) combining pure white soft sugar, black sesames and high quality lard stuffing (and would you believe this was a dessert ...?)
Not to digress...but these rice glue balls eventually made their way to the New Year’s Day breakfast table where they were consumed with best wishes all around for happiness, reunion and good luck.
Many Chinese living overseas would actually eat a bowl of rice glue balls to release their homesickness (I think I’ll stick to looking at family photos). By1997, these glutinous beauties were named one of the “Famous Snacks in China.”
Glue balls aside, Confucius said, “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”
The lesson here is to surround yourself with beauty, so it’s impossible not to see it.