The Chinese Lantern Festival exposes Atlanta to vibrant culture

Page Design By Khoa Tran | The Signal

The utilization of lanterns was  used for several worldly celebrations, like the lantern walk celebration of St. Martin’s Day in Germany. There is another pivotal lantern celebration in the wide scope of cultures featured across nations, and that’s the Chinese New Year Lantern Festival.

 The Chinese Lantern Festival in Centennial Olympic Park showcase ornate handmade lanterns as well as dance and theatre performances based on Chinese culture. Photo by Dayne Francis | The Signal

The Chinese Lantern Festival in Centennial Olympic Park showcase ornate handmade lanterns as well as dance and theatre performances based on Chinese culture.
Photo by Dayne Francis | The Signal

The Chinese New Year this year is on Jan. 28, and Atlanta was welcomed with the authentic method for celebration when the event graced the fields on Centennial Olympic Park. The Chinese Lantern Festival opened on Dec. 9 and is staying open up until Jan. 15.

Once night bestows the city, the lights from the lanterns begin to radiate through the park. The different shapes, colors and interpretive art pieces come to life, and China is born in the middle of Atlanta.
The Origin Story

This festival is not simply trying to grasp the concept of a traditional Chinese celebration, but because of the company behind the creation, Tianyu Arts & Culture Inc., it is a legitimate manifestation of authenticity and culture. Morgan Smith-Williams, the senior communications specialist at Georgia World Congress Center Authority, explains how in-touch the festival actually is with its Chinese roots.

“The lanterns come from the Sichuan province, and they come from the town in that province called Zigong,” Smith-Williams said. “Traditionally in Chinese culture, they use lanterns as a way to celebrate the New Year. They start [production] in Zigong, and there are artists that make and paint all the fabric, and a lot of the artists on site here are from China. They travel with the festival, but are actually from that province. It took about a month to build the festival, we had to shut down the park around mid-November and open it on Dec. 9. These artisans from China had to use about nine shipping containers to ship the material that was painted and sewn in China, and then they came over and built them on site.”


Each display at the festival tells a story or has a rich history behind it, and that’s due to the artists wanting to convey their background and ancient/modern Chinese lifestyles within the vibrant colors and mechanisms. It didn’t stop there. However, Tianyu Arts & Culture Inc. wanted to pay homage to the city where the festival is being held so Atlanta’s identifiers were transformed into luminescent creations.

“For each display there is a sign in front that explains the significance. Tianyu Arts & Culture Inc. travels around the US with these installations, but in each city it’s a little different. In our Atlanta festival, we have Peach Trees lanterns (being that the Peach is our state fruit). A lot of the traditional items do have a deeper meaning in the Chinese culture. If you’re in the festival, you’ll be able to stop and read what the significance is for each display,” Smith-Williams said.

The Appeal Factors

Photo by Dayne Francis | The Signal
Photo by Dayne Francis | The Signal

The visitors of the festival evidently appreciate the craftsmanship and beauty of every work of art, but there are some that Georgia residents seem to be drawn to more. Perhaps it’s the amount of cuteness the display contains, or simply the amount of beauty and magnitude it holds.

“From what we can see from photos posted on social media, visitors specifically enjoy three displays. They really like the pandas, the exhibit feature two pandas on a seesaw that moves back and forth. People love that,” Smith-Williams said. “The second installation that they love is the dragon, and the dragon is huge. It is maybe about nine or ten feet long, and maybe 15 to 20 feet high. It’s definitely one of the tallest things at the festival. The third piece people love are these vases, mainly because it’s a perfect shot right above the ferris wheel, and so seeing the lights of the ferris wheel and then seeing the lights of the vases makes it a really beautiful shot.”

The festival does not only feature lanterns, but also acrobatics, dancers, theatre and craftsmen that fashioned together edible sugar dragons and Chinese paintings. Everything about this festival is a glimpse into the delicate transcendence that revolves around China’s culture.

“All the performers at the festival came from Zigong as well, and a lot of them are trained in the traditional Chinese art. They have all been training their whole life to be able to perform these traditional dances and art shows,” Smith-Williams said.

It’s Almost Lights Out

The unfortunate truth is that the festival might not be setting up shop again in Atlanta anytime soon, mostly due to the high demand around the U.S. to see the wonders of China. This reality is bittersweet: since the festival won’t return for quite some time, encouragement to visit now is extremely apparent.

“This is the first year it has been in Centennial Olympic Park, and it’s actually the first year the festival has been anywhere in the Southeast,” Smith-Williams said. “We know that the Lantern Festival travels all over the country and it might be a few years before it comes back to Atlanta, so this is definitely something to see while we have it here. It’s a very unique experience and it’s great for families. The little ones will enjoy the lights, how they move and how they change color. Then the adults will appreciate the history and the performances, because they are fantastic.”


What to Know

  • Festival closes on Jan. 15, 2017
  • Hours: Sunday-Thursday 6 p.m.- 10 p.m.

                       Friday-Saturday 6 p.m.- 11 p.m.

  • Prices: $16 for adults and $12 for children on

                       $18 for adults and $14 for children at the door

                       *Children three and under are FREE

  • Location: Centennial Olympic Park, 265 Park Ave W NW, Atlanta, GA 30313


Special Treats

  • Food services by the festival
  • Hot chocolate and hot cider
  • Full bar inside the festival
  • Surrounding attractions: Skyview Ferris Wheel and Centennial Olympic Park’s Ice Rink