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Casting a light on ancient traditions

An ancient festival with a modern twist comes to Expo New Mexico, bringing with it the traditions, colors and culture of China.

For six weeks, from Oct. 6 through Nov. 12, Villa Hispana at Expo New Mexico in Albuquerque will host the New Mexico Chinese Lantern Festival, produced by Tianyu Arts & Culture Inc.

The festival will feature more than 30 larger-than-life illuminated displays and more than 1,000 individual pieces, all crafted by Chinese artisans, said event manager Stephanie Zhou.

There will be flowers, fish, pandas, palaces, windmills, birds and more, including a 180-foot-long dragon. The lantern sculptures are constructed from colorful silk fabric stretched over a steel or wire frame and illuminated by more than 15,000 LED lights.

Lanterns in ancient times were generally made from rice paper over a frame of sticks or twigs and lit up by candles, Zhou said.

In addition to the lantern displays, the festival will showcase Chinese dancers and acrobats, Chinese handicrafts, and Chinese and traditional foods.

“This is a very old and traditional festival that is more than 2,000 years old,” she said. “It occurs on the last day of the Spring Festival and signals the end of Chinese New Year celebrations.”

It was generally held on the first full-moon night in the Chinese calendar, marking the return of spring and the reunion of family.

The festival encouraged families to go out at night and meet with neighbors and friends. People often wrote riddles on the outside of their lanterns, an invitation for others to try decipher the mystery, Zhou said.

The festival will be open from 5:30 to 10 p.m. each night. Acrobats, face dancers and actors will perform two shows nightly from Sunday through Thursday, at 6:30 and 8 p.m., and three shows on Friday and Saturday, at 6:30, 8 and 9 p.m.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for children aged 6-18, and $12 for seniors and active duty military with I.D. It’s free for children 5 and younger.

For additional information about the festival, ticket discounts or to purchase tickets, go to Tickets can also be purchased at the Chinese Culture Center, 427 Adams SE.