Lantern festival set to light up the awa

Published on April 27, 2021

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A magical night of family, food, culture and lights awaits visitors to Lanterns on the Awa, which is being supported by Whanganui District Council.

The Chinese lantern festival will be held on the banks of the Whanganui River on Saturday, 8 May 2021, from 5.00pm to 9.30pm. The event is organised by the Whanganui branch of the New Zealand China Friendship Society.

The lantern festival is usually held in February, 15 days after the Chinese New Year festivities, but this year it has been moved to May because of COVID-19 alert levels.

Jan McLeod from the New Zealand China Friendship Society says Lanterns on the Awa is a real community event, with something for everyone.

International students from Whanganui Collegiate and Confucius Classroom students from Whanganui High School will present music.

Students from Shirley McDouall School of Dance have prepared a classical Chinese piece. Local wushu martial artists in taiji (tai chi) and other disciplines will demonstrate their skills.

“Traditional Lantern Festival foods will be on sale. There will be demonstrations of various Chinese arts and crafts that are usually displayed to celebrate the return of light and warmth to the earth,” Jan McLeod says.

She says ox-themed decorations have been sent from China especially for the event, as 2021 is the Year of the Ox in the Chinese zodiac calendar.

Whanganui District Council’s customer services group manager, Marianne Cavanagh, says the council is supporting Lanterns on the Awa to honour its relationship with its Chinese sister city, Lijiang.

Whanganui has had a formal sister city relationship with Lijiang, in the southern Chinese province of Yunnan, since 2019.

Whanganui’s two other sister cities are Toowoomba (Queensland, Australia) and Nagaizumi-cho (Japan).

“The sister city relationships help Whanganui develop international friendships, leading to a mutually beneficial exchange of ideas and the development of social, cultural, economic and educational opportunities,” Marianne Cavanagh says. 

At the Sister Cities New Zealand conference at Te Papa on 16 April, Whanganui was recognised for its virtual connections with its Japanese sister city, Nagaizumi-cho, during the 2020 pandemic lockdown.