Galley Wench Tales

Exploring the world through the people we meet
and the food they eat.

Auckland’s 18th annual Chinese Lantern Festival featured elaborate “lanterns!” The festival marks
the close of Chinese New Year celebrations.  Auckland, New Zealand, February 12, 2017.
“Fierce” armored warrior at Auckland’s Chinese Lantern Festival
was happy to mug for the camera.  Auckland, New Zealand.

Serendipity!  With little time to plan, we made obligatory just-in-time-get-outta-town dash from Australia to New Zealand to renew our Australian tourist VISAs.*  Yet thumbing through the in-flight Jetstar magazine, lo and behold, we discovered were just in time to catch the last day of Auckland’s famed Chinese Lantern Festival! 

*We applied for quickie, cheap Australian VISA online with few requirements except leaving the country every 90 days or less to reset our VISA.  It’s good for at least a year that way.
“The Lantern Festival traditionally marks the end of Chinese New Year festivities and is celebrated on the 15th day of the first Chinese lunar month,” reported the New Zealand Herald
Best of all, the festival was free, and only a 15 minute walk from the Parnell neighborhood AirBnB where we were staying.
One of the many types of fanciful tree-hanging
lanterns at Auckland’s Chinese Lantern Festival.

This year marked the 18thcelebration of the festival in Auckland, an event known to draw over 200,000 people to Auckland’s Domain (park adjacent Auckland Museum).  Around 800 lanterns lit up the night this year, celebrating the year of the rooster.  This year the 15thday of the lunar month fell on a Saturday, and Auckland decided to exploit the extra weekend day to end the festival with a bang of fireworks on Sunday night.

This parade dragon hoofed by in a hurry, along with his 3 undulating compatriots.  Auckland’s Chinese Lantern Festival, New Zealand.
The dragon’s accompanying parade band moved at a bit more leisurely pace in their matching dragon leggings. 

According to Stephanie Lin in her NZ Herald interview, in her home country of Taiwan, “On the day of the lantern festival, thousands of people write their wishes on sky lanterns, and release them into the night sky.  The watch them float in the air and bring their hopes and wishes to for the new year to the gods.”

This large fabric lantern diorama depicted daily life in traditional China, here the games are afoot whilst a man holds his birds.  Auckland, New Zealand’s Chinese Lantern Festival.
There’s also an emphasis on study….
But still time for romance.
This handsome fella would get my attention if
I came across him on a lamp post at night!

While Auckland’s Lantern Chinese Lantern Festival is more grounded, it offers a wonderful panoply of Chinese culture, from the “noodle palace” food purveyors, to dragon parades, music, dances, martial arts and more. 

We arrived at dusk, to wander the show for a few hours and stay through to the firework finale. 
The people watching was even better than the lanterns.  While maintaining more of a “mixed salad” than a melting pot, there’s no denying Auckland’s multiculturalism.  Festival-goers included tiny tots (including some in traditional Chinese costumes), women wearing hijabs for modesty, (but not veiled), Maoris, resplendent in their tattoos, Indians in their westernized attire, and as many Chinese as Caucasians. 
Some displays were the stuff of legends, like this one, about discovering gold treasure.  Auckland, Chinese Lantern Festival.

Regardless of origin, gaiety and frivolity abounded, with karaoke, running kids, bubble machines, blinking neon-lit head ornaments, photo-bombing, and generally good-natured bobbing and weaving.

Buddha and swans on a more serious yet beautiful note.  Auckland Chinese Lantern Festival.

As the temperature dropped, the clouds descended earthward in a damp mist as those of us stalwart fireworks fans made our way to the grassy slope to watch.  The stadium lights brilliantly illuminated the fine airy waves of moisture whilst savvy Aucklanders popped their umbrellas.  We envied them, and the family next to us who pulled their plastic-coated picnic blanket over their slickers.  We figured it was not their first rodeo enjoying the great outdoors of an Auckland summer.

The music played by this accomplished young girl on a harp on its side enchanted us.
Eventually, there will be a video clip of her performance.

Nonetheless, the show went on.

Did the wetness dampen the fireworks?  We’ll never know.  We still enjoyed 10 minutes of oohs and aaahs of pyrotechnics, complete with whistles, bursts and bangs.

Given the conditions, I was unable to get any fireworks photos (even with my water camera), and apparently was not alone.  A Google Images search for this year’s festival fireworks drew a big goose egg.

These theropods were one of many Disney-fied displays at Auckland’s Chinese Lantern Festival.

Mixing the two arctics… with polar bears and penguins.  Auckland Chinese Lantern Festival.

It pleased us the next day on our late afternoon stroll through to still see some lanterns still about, though 99% of the festivities are all packed away and cleaned up.

All in all, after getting deluged in 2016’s New Year, it seemed fitting to celebrate two New Years this year, Sydney Harbour’s famed fireworks and Auckland’s Chinese New Year.

We have no idea where in the world we’ll be for New Year’s next year.

You can’t possibly have too many dragons at a Chinese festival!  Auckland Chinese Lantern Festival.

Location Location

Journey, our almost totally sold sailboat, is still in the Sydney area.  Our new nomadic home, a van, is in Melbourne’s airport parking lot.  We are in Auckland, returning to Melbourne tonight.

Could there possibly be a better symbol for a cultural festival than a friendship bridge?
Here ’tis, at Auckland’s Chinese Lantern Festival.

Up Next

We’ve decided to sell our van camper-conversion for a 4-wheel drive that will do a better job of taking us where we want to go.  That will be our first priority when we return to Australia.  Sigh… and more downsizing… will continue to feature our open road travels as well as catching up on some open ocean posts.

The last of the lanterns, still lingering amongst the glorious trees, the afternoon after Auckland’s Chinese Lantern Festival.