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May 28, 2024

Chinese Lantern Festival to illuminate Franklin Square this summer

The display has a dragon theme this year. It will be open daily from Thursday, June 20, to Sunday, Aug.18.

Festivals Light Shows
Chinese Lantern Festival Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Expect an extra emphasis on winged monsters at the Chinese Lantern Festival in Philadelphia this year: 2024 is the Year of the Dragon.

Dragons, pandas and brightly plumed birds will enter Franklin Square in a few weeks as part of the Chinese Lantern Festival.

The annual celebration features hundreds of lit-up lanterns resembling animals — mythical and real — and other totems of Chinese culture. The main attraction is typically the 200-foot-long dragon, but there also will be food and performances to augment the experience. Visitors can see the spectacle each night between Thursday, June 20, and Sunday, August 18. The hours are 6-11 p.m.

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In addition to work from professional artists, the festival will also highlight student creations. Selected drawings from the fest's design contest — now closed, but previously open to kids ages 8-14 — will be turned into lanterns displayed during the event. Since 2024 is the Year of the Dragon, the theme is naturally fire-breathing beasts.

Lantern festivals are traditionally held in China on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar. Though there are many theories on their origin, the organizers of the Philadelphia event subscribe to a legend dating back to the Han dynasty in the 2nd century. The story goes that the Jade Emperor, a god figure in Chinese mythology, was furious after villagers killed a crane that had flown down from heaven. He vowed to set the village ablaze on the 15th lunar day, but a clever man told the villagers to raise red lanterns and launch fireworks to trick the deity into thinking the village was already on fire. The plan worked, and the light display returned every year.

Admission to the Chinese Lantern Festival starts at $16 for children ages 3-12 (babies and young toddlers are free). Teenagers, seniors and active members of the military pay $23 on Mondays through Thursdays, or $26 on Fridays through Sundays. All other adults pay $25 during the week or $28 on the weekend, when tickets are timed.

Chinese Lantern Festival

Thursday, June 20 to Sunday, Aug. 18
6-11 p.m. | $16-$28
Franklin Square
200 N. Sixth St., Philadelphia

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