Auckland and South Island
lantern festivals

Each year Auckland Domain and Christchurch's Avon River Precinct and Cathedral Square come alive with beautiful Chinese lanterns, incredible food stalls and spectacular local and international performers. See below for information on the 2019 lantern festivals.

Get a taste of the 2019 South Island Lantern Festival


The origins of the lantern festivals

The Lantern Festival has been part of Chinese New Year celebrations since the Han Dynasty (206 BC- 221 AD).

Usually held on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar, it marks the end of New Year festivities.

It is said that the holiday evolved from an ancient Chinese belief that celestial spirits could be seen flying about in the light of the first full moon of the lunar calendar.

People used torches and eventually lanterns of every shape, size and colour to aid them in spotting the spirits.

The lanterns come in all shapes and sizes. Some are created in the form of animals, insects, flowers, people or even machines and buildings. Others depict scenes from popular stories teaching filial piety and traditional values. A favourite subject is the zodiac animal of the year.

A pig lantern

In the Chinese Zodiac 2019 is the year of the pig

2019 (as of 5 February) is the year of the pig in the Chinese zodiac. The pig is the 12th of the 12 animals in the zodiac. People born in the year of the pig are down to earth, no nonsense types, but are also energetic and enthusiastic. Pigs were born in the following years: 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019. 


The lantern festivals in New Zealand

2019 is the 20th anniversary of the Auckland Lantern Festival. The Asia New Zealand Foundation established the Auckland Lantern Festival in partnership with Auckland City Council in 2000. In 2005 the Christchurch (now South Island) Lantern Festival was established. The Asia New Zealand Foundation continues to support the festivals as a foundation partner.

Lantern festival performers schools visits

Each year performers from China who come to New Zealand for the lantern festivals tour schools to give students a taste of Chinese culture. Over the years acrobats, Chinese folk musicians, throat singers, dancers and more have visited schools and entertained students with their unique performances. 

The international performers in New Zealand for the 2018 Auckland and Christchurch lantern festivals perform for the students of Royal Oak Intermediate in Auckland