Nothing says Chinese New Year like a bright red lantern that bobs and shines its good luck message. For many, these iconic lanterns are synonymous with China, itself. Each year, China’s over-the-top annual lantern festival brings more awareness to the traditional form of lighting. Chinese New Year falls on February 8 this year and the lantern festival will take place on February 22. That might seem far away, but for China's lantern makers, who are in the midst of their busiest season, it’s right around the corner.
The Agence France-Presse writes that lantern makers in China’s self-proclaimed “lantern capital,” the village of Tuntou, in Hebei province, are working overtime to make thousands of handmade lanterns in time for the holiday season. Tuntou has a long history of lantern making: China Central Television reports that the village has produced lanterns since the 18th century where artisans spend a lifetime working on their craft and then pass along their skills to their relatives.
Tuntou has cornered an estimated 70 percent of the domestic market, CCTV writes. China’s annual lantern output is staggering—it’s estimated to be in the tens of millions built in both large and small factories. The push isn’t just for Chinese New Year: the lanterns are used for other celebrations, too. But Chinese New Year is the granddaddy of all lantern holidays.
The color red symbolizes good luck in Chinese culture, and many lanterns are painted with phrases in Chinese. Tuntou’s Communist leader tells the AFP that most lanterns are now decorated with “socialist core values” slogans that reflect Xi Jinping’s priorities of prosperity, democracy, civility, harmony, freedom, equality, justice, the rule of law, patriotism, dedication, integrity and friendship. But on China's Weibo microblogs, 90 percent of online comments about the slogans are negative, reports the Asahi Shimbun. Whether you see them as political statements or just pretty objects, one thing is for sure: China’s lantern industry isn’t slowing down any time soon.