Where: Pingxi, Taiwan, Republic of China
When: February

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Touted as one of the best festivals in the world, the Lantern Festival is  something everyone should try and experience at least once in their lifetime.

While Chinese New Year tends to get all the attention, one of the more subtle and beguiling celebratory days in the Chinese calendar is the annual Sky Lantern Festival. In a blaze of luminous glory, 100,000 to 200,000 hot air lanterns emblazon a full moonlit sky. Although the holiday is celebrated all across Asia, nowhere in the world is it more recognized than Pingxi, a remote mountain town only an hour drive from Taipei.

According to the elders of Pingxi, China the Sky Lantern Festival began in the Xing Dynasty, more than two thousand years ago. At that time, bands of outlaws frequently raided the lowland villages, forcing residents to seek refuge in the mountains. Village watchmen used “fire balloons” as signals to inform the residents that their houses were safe once again and when those hiding in the hills saw the celestial flares, they knew it was time to go home. Today these lanterns have two main purposes. One: they display scribbled messages of the hopes and dreams of the purchaser who then release them into the night sky by the power of fire; and Two: they represent the end of the Chinese New Year period and their release symbolizes the shedding of outdated ways and embracing the future.