Lanterns versus fireworks

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I don’t like the fireworks here in Vancouver. You might think I am a killjoy, but I don’t see how the city benefits from this corporate celebration. Let me explain: each year there is an event in Vancouver (for no particular reason or holiday) called ‘Celebration of Lights’  and huge amounts of money are spent on four nights of pyrotechnics. Masses of people drive in from the burbs to see this showy display of fire put on to sappy music, they spread garbage all over the place, get drunk and fight. A lovely evening out on the town. This is what is called a cultural event in Vancouver.

Last Saturday, I decided to forgo the firework and attend the Trout Lake lantern festival instead. Formerly known as Illuminaries, the lantern festival was canceled this year–a victim of its own success. It started off as a community get-together where children and adults from the Trout Lake area would build lanterns, where amateur musicians came out to play and ladies put on fairy wings and carried wands. What could be more entertaining? Well, everyone agreed it was a lot of fun and so people started to come not only from the nearby neighbourhoods but from all over the city. The event got so big that it no longer had the budget to ensure the safety and organisation of the festival without a corporate sponsor. This year, after the announcement of its cancellation, there were only a handful of renegade lantern lighters but the festival was just as magic as ever. We danced in the moonlight like wild pagans, lanterns bobbing and drums beating.

What I like about the lantern festival is that it is about people, creativity and community (even if that concept ran into problems of scale). What I don’t like about the fireworks is the consumption, waste and anonymity.

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