Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Good Fortune in Auckland: a Chinese Lantern Extravaganza

As holidays go, the one we witnessed in Auckland must be right up there with the all-time most colorful celebrations.
On the Indian holiday Holi, people pelt each other with water pistols filled with every imaginable color of water. Getting stained is part of the ritual. On Easter Sunday, the women of North America doff their pastel finery and flowered hats to parade into churches or stroll down urban avenues. On Thanksgiving, New York and other cities march giant helium-filled balloons of presidents and Disney characters under telephone wires and past viewing stands.

But none match the Chinese New Year for colorful costumes and props. In my home of Washington, DC, Chinatown comes alive with three-man dragon costumes, firecrackers, and musical performances. In Auckland, New Zealand, the magnificent city park called the Domain is annually decked out in extravagant Chinese finery: lanterns of all shapes and sizes, blown-up animals, gilded gondolas, and gracefully bowing animatronic dragons.
In February 2017, Auckland inaugurated the Year of the Rooster in similar style, with chicken wire, paint, twinkling lights, music, exhibits, and gobs of fanfare.
The annual Lantern Festival draws 200,000 to stroll the grounds of the Domain and sample the food and entertainment. We succumbed to the call! We picked up family friend Wilson (son of Cary) on the way; he is working in New Zealand.
First stop: painters employing both splashy blobs and delicate calligraphy to form chicken feathers, fish scales, flower petals, and snowflakes. On-the-spot art for sale: traditional Chinese style, with the artist's inscription in the corner.
Next station: dozens of delicate eggshell cut-outs with intricate patterns, all sculpted without breaking the shell. 
Third on the agenda: a stroll around the grounds, where one takes in a feast for the senses--music, dancing, and a cornucopia of blues, reds, oranges, and yellows. Come back at dusk for the spectacular light show, when all the "lanterns" twinkle and shine.
To top off the festivities were ladies in spring finery and the usual profusion of food trucks (a global phenomenon, apparently).
Smiles and warm wishes abounded, and we soaked it in like a dry sponge, relishing the good fortune that brought us to Auckland on this particular weekend. In this Year of the Rooster, may you also enjoy good fortune--and good friends, a dragon in your pocket, and a colorful lantern in every tree.

No comments:

Post a Comment