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The Dragon is Back! Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival Returns to Franklin Square

Immerse yourself in this breathtaking Chinese tradition from June 21 through August 14!

philadelphia chinese lantern festival

The Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival in Franklin Square is a celebration of light and culture featuring silk-wrapped steel-framed sculptures lighting up the night sky. The sculptures are larger than life and include archways, pop-culture references, mechanical sculptures, and more all done in brilliant colors.

The Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival will open on June 21 and run through August 14, open daily from 6 – 11 pm. Franklin Square is open during regular daytime hours and the lanterns can be seen for free during the daytime, with a nighttime ticket being required after 6 pm. During the day you can participate in a free scavenger hunt to win free tickets to the Festival!

dragon chinese lantern festival

Photo by Jeff Fusco for Tianyu

New for 2022

All of the lanterns for this year’s celebration are new- with some returning favorites, including the 200-foot-long dragon, giant Temple of Heaven, walk-through bamboo forest and wisteria tunnel, mythological creatures, and interactive installations including a kaleidoscope selfie spot! A portion of the proceeds benefit Historic Philadelphia, Inc. the non-profit that operates and manages Franklin Square.

The Franklin Square Fountain Show will feature a new song, “Little Apple” by Chopsticks Brothers. The Fountain show was created in 2019 for the 183-year-old historic fountain, and it’s a spectacular show of choreographed lights and water.

Live performers from China will demonstrate incredible and impressive feats of strength, balance, and movement with three 30-minute performances each evening, interspersed with the fountain shows. Performances will vary, and are free with admission.

Franklin Square fountain

Photo by Jeff Fusco for Tianyu

All The Usual Faves

As always, you can enjoy a round of mini golf on the Philadelphia-themed putt putt course (tickets are extra), take a spin on the Carousel (special pricing for guests with a Lantern Fest ticket), and let loose some energy on the playground.

Let’s not forget our second favorite reason for being excited for the return of the Chinese Lantern Festival (the first one being the appreciation for the extremely talented artists bringing about the return, of course!)– the food! There’s a new (clear!) tent for the Dragon Beer Garden, and delish food from Sang Kee, Oishii, and SquareBurger.

Don’t miss the Pagoda Gift Shop for a variety of traditional and playful merchandise to take home to remember your experience! Items are festival themed and lantern inspired!

But Wait! There’s More!

The Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival Student Design Contest presented by Temple University gives area students the opportunity to design a lantern for the 2022 Festival. Winners from this year’s entries will be announced at the opening and their drawings will be crafted into lanterns and displayed!

Local Chinatown businesses are providing discounts or special offers when guests show their ticket before or after visiting the Festival. Look for flyers for businesses offering discounts, as well as places that are Panda Promotion partners for ticket distribution.

panda chinese lantern festival

Photo by Jeff Fusco for Tianyu

Lantern Festival History

For centuries, the Lantern Festival has been a Chinese festival celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunar calendar to pray for a good harvest, and gain favor of Taiyi, god of heaven. A legend tells of a god who wanted to punish humans by setting fire to the earth. An old, wise man hit upon an ingenious solution: he got people to light torches, lanterns, and fireworks to fool the god into thinking the world was already burning and leave mankind in peace. In ancient times, the lanterns were fairly simple, and only the emperor and noblemen had large ornate ones. In modern times, lanterns have been embellished with many complex designs such as the ones on view at the Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival. Today, lantern festivals are still held each year around the country. Each major Chinese city has its own light festival which attract millions of visitors and tourists. During Chinese New Year, families go out to view the beautiful lanterns created by Chinese artists. Each light sculpture tells a legend or symbolizes an old Chinese story.

The lanterns are built with steel frames welded into outlined shapes, and then hundreds of LED lights are strung inside the lantern. Next, plain silk is wrapped and glued around each frame. Each lantern’s silk is hand-painted to create animals, flowers, patterns, and other designs to create each finished piece. Finally, when lights are turned on, the silk glows in the dark. A group of Chinese artists and craftsmen build the sculptures on the spot. In just a few weeks, Franklin Square is transformed into a magical wonderland. Each larger-than-life lantern will once again wow visitors with their amazing craftsmanship, cultural significance, and artistic beauty.

Thank you to Relief Communications for the press release. Photo credit to Jeff Fusco for Tianyu, lead photo by Pamela Badolato.

Content Director, Main Line Parent & Philadelphia Family. Email me at pamela@familyfocus.org