TAO Lantern Festival and Night Market

CHRISTINE HSIEH/New University

On Feb. 26, the Taiwanese American Organization (TAO) hosted the second annual Lantern Festival and Night Market in celebration of Lunar New Year, the year of the rabbit. TAO is an organization that educates students about Taiwanese culture through social and cultural activities such as this event.

“Basically we are trying to promote the Taiwanese culture by bringing the atmosphere of Lantern festival and Night Market because it is a very big part of Taiwan’s culture,” says the president of Tao, third-year Will Roberts. “We are trying to bring that same feeling in this event and have all the similar games, foods and performances. We want to let people know what Lantern festival and Night Market is all about by showing them the Taiwanese culture,”

On the night of the festival, music and chatter filled the hallways of the Student Center at UCI. The joyous celebration instantly drew others through the doorway. UCI students from a number of different clubs all gathered together to reenact the night life of Taiwan and their traditional Lantern Festival.

In Taiwan, the annual Chinese Lantern Festival has been held since the Han Dynasty more than 2000 years ago. In the past, the people of Taiwan would pray for luck in their homes or temple during the day and carry candle paper lanterns on the streets or around the house at night. The ceiling was drowned with a sea of paper made from yellow, white, pink and green flowery-patterned lanterns, perhaps sealed with a wish for good grades or a stable job after college.

The TAO’s Lantern Festival and Night Market had snippets of everything. The Night Market seemed to have it all — from egg rolls to Korean tacos to Taiwanese sausages, minced pork rice and much more. Many of the dishes and appetizers cost two red tickets which is the equivalent of two dollars, quite a deal for the tasteful glimpse of what delicious food Taiwanese culture has to offer.

“I think this event really has a lot of diversity about how Taiwanese culture is projected and they have lots of different experiences here and there like snacks, arts and crafts. It’s just fantastic!” says freshman and Chinese major Eric Perez.

There were several games and activities such as Gold Fishing, Shot Pong, The Riddler, Mahjong Bingo and the Mystery Box Game. Each winner of the games had a prize to be offered, much like a mini-carnival.

There were several Taiwanese information groups present, such as Taiwanese American Citizen League, Taiwanese American Professionals,

TawaineseAmerican.org and TAO themselves, all who connect and promote the Taiwanese identity, heritage and culture. They offered information about their group to passersby who were interested in what may be in store for them.

The Lantern Festival also gave the opportunity to see and meet the princesses of Miss Taiwan.

“We really go anywhere where there are a lot of Taiwanese Chinese Americans, so we can represent our own culture and also connect to other people,” says Miss Teen Taiwan, who is currently a senior in high school and would like to attend UCI next fall quarter.

If you wanted to wind down for a moment, there were tables set up for those who were interested in lantern painting, lantern making or Chinese calligraphy.

“I really like Taiwan, and I have been there for the past few summers. Night Markets are one of the best things about it and it’s something you don’t find here in the states so it feels a bit surreal with this event,” says Henry Hail, a grad student here at UCI.

The stage was constantly occupied with talented groups and singers all through the night. Every twenty minutes, the stage captured the audience’s attention all over again by switching back and forth between the performances put on by dance groups and popular young singers. UCI’s Chinese Association Martial

Arts amazed the crowd through their acrobatic moves and flips.

The banging of drums from the Traditional Lion Dance performed by the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) seemed to light a spark amongst the crowd, as the decorated red and black dragons danced around the room, wiggling their ears and batting their eyes bashfully at the audience. The soothing voice of

Victor Kim captured the heart of many girls and YouTube star Jennifer Chung ended the night with her passionate, strong voice.

The 2011 Lantern Festival and Night Market not only provided a glimpse of Taiwanese culture but brought an enjoyable night and unity amongst UCI students, clubs and community.