Penguins, polar bears, pandas and even the Beijing Temple of Heaven – find out what The Magical Lantern Festival has lined up for us this year.
The UK’s biggest Chinese lantern festival is set to return to Leeds this November – and it’s going to be bigger and better than ever before. They’ve been working on their displays for the last 6 months, carefully crafting 30 handmade Chinese lanterns. They’re all completely different to last year, and you can see them on a new trail that will take you around Roundhay Park.
This year, The Magical Lantern Festival will run from Friday 24th November 2017 to Monday 1st January 2018 – that’s right, you can welcome in the New Year with a magical walk around one of Europe’s biggest urban parks after dark. The kids will love it and you will too, but you might want to book ahead for that one because it’s sure to be popular.
2,000 years of heritage, one incredible event
Chinese lanterns have a rich heritage that spans over 2,000 years, but while they may date back to 202BC, they only really became popular in 618AD during the Tang Dynasty. In those days, they were just simple lanterns, like the ones you might see hanging above Chinatown shops today. Only emperors and noblemen had larger, more ornate lanterns and even those were nothing in comparison to the elaborate works of art created for modern Chinese lantern festivals.
The ones used for The Magical Lantern Festival are designed and handmade in the Chinese province of Sichuan and imported to the UK in 40-foot shipping containers (imagine trying to get that through Customs). They start with a simple sketch, drawn by hand, but that’s just the beginning. These lanterns are so complex that they have to do a 3D plan to capture the detail of their design from every angle – only once that’s done can it finally go into production. They mould and shape it from strands of metal, before layering on coloured silk. The result is breathtaking.
You won’t believe what you’re seeing
This year they’ve got some seriously cool displays for you to see – and they’re all new, so don’t worry if you came last year, it’s completely different. The star attraction is their replica of the Beijing Temple of Heaven. It’s a Taoist temple and UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it’s also an architectural masterpiece, so it’s no wonder they chose this particular Chinese landmark to recreate. Theirs is 12 metres wide, 8 metres high and lit up with 10,000 lights.
And that’s not the only display that celebrates Chinese culture. You can also see a giant phoenix that’s 30 metres wide and 5 metres tall. The Chinese class the heavenly phoenix on earth as one of the twelve symbols of sovereignty. And of course, it wouldn’t be The Magical Lantern Festival without pandas. This year, they’ll be ice skating!
You can get into the Christmas spirit too. Remember the old woman who lived in a shoe? You can see her big red boot at the festival, but they’ve given it a festive twist because Santa himself is sat on top. Look out for their giant 6-metre Christmas tree too, it comes complete with baubles, presents and candy sticks. And we mustn’t forget the star of the show – the penguin and polar bear enclosure. You’ll find them scrambling over icebergs and glaciers in a display that’s 20 metres wide and 4.5 metres high – this one’s going to be a big hit with the kids.
That’s not all. They’ve got a safari park, with zebras, wild cats and giraffes. You can see a huge 15-metre display filled with oysters and pearls – and they’ve created a beautiful selection of floral themed lanterns that will add a pop of colour to proceedings. And this year, they’ve teamed up with Quality Street to create a 6-metre high lantern in the shape of a tub of Quality Street with all your favourite sweets – they’ll even be recreating the street from the famous ads and you can make your own personalised tubs. It could say Murray Street, Sheerin Street or Turner Street. And you can also get tins printed with messages like Quality Mum, Quality Dad or Quality Teacher.
Street food, mulled wine & a date with the big man himself
This year, they’ve brought everything together, so you’ll follow a new route through The Rose Garden and The Monet Garden, then on to The Chelsea Garden and The Alhambra Garden – and when you’ve finished, you can treat yourself to a drink and a bite to eat in their food and drink area.
They’ve got a little something for everyone. There’s street food to fill your belly, with everything from pizzas and burgers to crepes, hot dogs and churros. The Marshmalllowist will be back again this year, so you can have hot roasted marshmallows over their open fire – on a cold winter’s day, it’s an absolute treat. But then, so are the sweet Brazilian eats at Churros Amigos.
If you’re more interested in drinking, they’ve got a huge tipi bar for you to hole up in for the night. It’s super cosy, with twinkling fairy lights, old whiskey barrels turned into tables and roaring fires – step out of the cold and warm up with a mug of mulled wine or a pint of beer.
Bringing the kids? They can meet the big man himself because Santa will be making a personal appearance. They’ve hand-built a traditional wooden grotto especially for the event, so the little ones can meet Father Christmas and pick up a present to take home, while you capture the moment on camera. They’ll also have a photographer on hand, in case you want to get a professional shot done (they do make great Christmas presents, after all). Afterwards, why not nip outside and make the most of the funfair rides?
The Magical Lantern Festival will take over Roundhay Park from Friday 24th November 2017 to Monday 1st January 2018. It’s open Wednesday to Sunday from 24th November to 10th December 2017, then every day except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day from 13th December 2017 to 1st January 2018. It opens at 5pm and closes at 10pm, last entry at 9pm. Tickets are £13.50 for adults, £9.50 for kids and £10.50 per person for families (2 adults and 2 kids or 1 adult and 3 kids). Children under 3 don’t need a ticket to enter.