Water Lanterns: From Ancient Rituals to Modern Decorations


Releasing water lanterns in rivers is an ancient ritual. Several Chinese and Japanese cultures still follow this custom while celebrating different ceremonies. For instance, the Japanese ceremony of Toro Nagashi involves floating paper lanterns down a river or a stream. The Japanese believe that the floating lanterns guide the spirits of the dead back to the world of the dead.

Floating lantern ceremony is also a part of the Keelung Ghost Festival of Taiwan. During this festival, the lanterns drifting in the water are seen as guiding lights for the departing ghosts. Several people in India float small earthen lamps on the water in similar ceremonies. The Lantern Floating Festival of Hawaii is also quite popular. The Thai festival of Loi Krathong is also famous for highly decorated floating lights.

The lights floating on the surface of water present an arresting sight. Since the ancient times, millions of people have floated lanterns on the slow-moving waters of rivers and streams. Throughout Asia, people have enjoyed the spectacle of lights twinkling on lakes, ponds, and rivers. Usually, a large number of lanterns or lamps are released at the same time. This makes the water look like a liquid, golden light.

Today, floating water lanterns are used as decorations all over the world. Their use is not restricted to a few regions in China and Japan. People living in the West have also recognized the value of floating lanterns as decorative items. Nowadays, it is not uncommon to see it used in ponds and swimming pools. There are several reasons why such lanterns are becoming more and more popular among the people in America, UK and Europe:

  • Floating lanterns create a pleasant and magical other-worldly aura
  • They do not cost much in comparison to other decorative lights
  • They are easily available in shops and on online stores
  • There are several different varieties of water lanterns
  • It is easy to find lanterns that suit a particular location or a specific location

Lotus floating water lanterns are one of the most popular types of floating lights. Available in a vast variety of colors and sizes, these lanterns are popular as decorations for religious ceremonies as well as parties. In the East, the lotus symbolizes purity, cleanliness, beauty and non-attachment. The light symbolizestruth and knowledge. The floating lotus lantern is one of the most enduring images of Buddhist celebrations.

Today, floating water lanterns are considered a cheap alternative to costlier lighting decorations. Not only do they look extremely attractive, but they are also very easy to transport, store, maintain and set up. Thousands of people use floating water lanterns to light up their pools. The dim and colorful light of the lanterns doesn’t hurt the eyes, and it creates a comfortable environment for gatherings and parties. Several sports and film functions also use floating lanterns on a lake or on a pond to create agrand visual impact on the viewers.

Just a few decades ago, the lanterns (usually blessed by a monk) were mostly used as a part of religious rituals and prayers. Today, they are one of the most popular decorations for parties and functions.


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