History of Wellington Lantern Festival

Updated: Dec 17, 2019

As we celebrate 5 years of Wellington Lantern Festival, we’re looking back at where we’ve come from! Check out a bit about each festival and how we’ve grown over the years below.


We’re still growing! 2020’s Wellington Lantern Festival has been moved to a new location, the Wellington Waterfront! 14 & 15 February will see a ‘bigger, brighter and better’ than ever festival! Stay tuned for updates!


In 2019 the Wellington Lantern Festival took over Lower Cuba once again. Hundreds of handmade lanterns from local schools were displayed, as well as 12 life-sized lanterns. This included a pig to celebrate the 2019 Chinese Year of the Pig. Over 150 artists performed and stunned the crowds. From traditional and contemporary Asian culture performances, to hip-hop, tap, Bollywood dancing, kapa haka, circus acts and more! Innovative performers were flown in from Auckland and even as far away as Taiwan. 70+ street-food vendors from all over the North island attended to bring us the Ultimate Street Food Fest!


The festival had grown so much, that in 2018 the festival spread over 2 days! Life-sized sculptured lanterns were once again displayed, including a five-metre-long dragon, three-meter-high peacock, two-meter-high panda, a butterfly and a kiwi! With over 50 stunning performances and more than 50 local food stalls running over both days! 2018 also saw the first Midsummer Nights’ Dream Lantern Parade, which involved hundreds of local children who had made their own lanterns at our lantern making workshops.


On 11 Feb 2017 Lower Cuba was once again transformed into a wonderland and promised to be bigger and better than ever before! More than 600 handmade lanterns in all shapes, colours, and sizes were displayed. Plus there were installations of beautifully sculpted life-size lanterns of majestic animals. There was entertainment from talented musicians and performers rocking the main stage as well as various activities, including the famous lantern riddles and draw a love fortune stick.


In 2016 the event emphasised its celebration of the rolling over of the Chinese New Year, and welcomed the year of the monkey. Lanterns adorned the Night Markets and were also sold at some stalls. There was live entertainment including martial arts, a Kung Fu display, Dragon Dances and Kapa Haka performances from local Wellington groups. The community was encouraged to bring their own lanterns to light up the night sky whilst celebrating together.


The first Wellington Lantern Festival was on 21 February 2015. Wellington Night Market decorated Lower Cuba with lanterns. The event was described as a place where the ‘street lights up at night’. Performances included a traditional Chinese dance by the Eastern Performance Art Group, Chinese Martial Art finishing with the lantern lighting ceremony.

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