(Not from Chicago? This event takes place in other cities in Illinois as well as other states)
Mark your calendars for next year – this is an activity I will definitely do again.
The Water Lantern Festival is an uplifting experience where family, friends, and strangers come together to celebrate. What did we celebrate? Everything. Life, love, loss, goals, successes. Wherever you are in life right now.
We attended the Chicago event, which took place at the lagoon in Lincoln Park Zoo. Funny story, it was originally planned for Humbolt Park but had to be changed due to the alligator invasion (aka “Chance the Snapper”). If you would like to avoid going into the city, this experience took place in some suburbs as well:
If you are not from Illinois, there are events all over the continental United States, as well as Internationally.
The launch itself didn’t start until 9:00 pm but gates opened up to attendees at 5:30 pm. The first thing we did was check in. With your admission, you received a sling bag. Inside was a lantern kit and a sharpie.
The next step was to pick our spot to relax at while we waited for the launch. Bringing a blanket and chairs is highly recommended. You could wheel in your own cooler with food and drinks too. Since this was our first time and did not know what to expect, we brought none of this. Big mistake. Luckily for us, they had some fantastic food trucks available for this (always) hungry girl. We also got there early enough to snag a spot on a short concrete wall around this lagoon.
There was plenty of time then to decorate and set up your lantern. As I mentioned above, there were many different themes. Mine was a nod to my blog and its theme of spending time together doing activities. “Enjoy experiences, not things”. My SO’s lantern was dedicated to loss. He has, unfortunately, experienced significant loss in the past and honored those loved ones. A young couple near us was celebrating their love with their names, significant dates, and LOTS of hearts. Whatever you are going through is worth celebrating or honoring.
A half hour before the launch they invited people to come up to a stage and share their stories. Young girls, easily under 10, speaking out about bullying and being true to who you are. People talking about following your passion. Cancer survivors. Such uplifting and emotional stories.
The launch started at 9:00 pm. You could put your lantern in the water right away or take your time. Float time lasted until 10:30 pm. While everyone was setting their lanterns into the lagoon, inspirational music played on the speakers. “Hallelujah” by Rufus Wainwright. “Over the Rainbow” by israel kamakawiwo’ole. If you are not familiar with these two versions, I will leave them at the end for your listening pleasure. You can thank me later.
We were not able to stay all the way until the end (because mosquitos LOVE me), but the sight of the lanterns drifting in the water was just so pretty. All carrying messages of hope, healing, happiness, and peace. And this was only maybe half of them:
Set a reminder to look into this festival near you next year. The proceeds benefit multiple charities and you and your SO will have a date night to remember!
Videos below courtesy of YouTube