Every autumn since 1992, Montreal hosts the annual lantern festival at none other than the famous Botanical Gardens. From the rich cultures and historical pasts of the Chinese, Japanese and First Nations that are exhibited, to the captivating mystique of the gardens of light, this event certainly makes the “must see” list of the season.
For its 25th edition, the festival returns with a new theme, showcasing another facet of the presented cultures. The dragon, also known as China’s emblem, is this year’s theme. Over the years, the Botanical Gardens have generously expanded their grounds and introduced a new path guiding through the Chinese, Japanese and First Nations gardens. One devout visitor expresses her appreciation for the additional area allocated. The larger spaces allow more people to learn about the city’s multicultural heritage. She adds that this festival “evokes pride in Montreal”, as the authenticity of various cultures within the city is communicated to the public through art.
Submerged in the mesmerizing atmosphere and following the trail lit with colourful lanterns, the visitors have a chance to experience and learn through the festival. Picture this: you are walking through the crisp autumn forest after the sun has set, letting the lanterns’ colours shine even brighter. The wind encircles you with the aroma of fallen leaves. The First Nations’ main attraction, a poplar tree, stands before you, representing the circle of life, one of the defining elements of their culture. A virtual projection of light upon the poplar imitates the dancing of the flames, simulating the sensation of a warm fire. A soundtrack incorporating the crackling of the flames and the chirping of nocturnal birds have the crowd in awe. They stand around the tree in silence, contemplating the stillness in all its beauty. An elderly visitor who walked the trail twice with her husband mentions that she enjoys the “peaceful feeling and gentle theme” of the gardens. Indeed, the path helps to put people with fast-paced lives back in touch with nature, even if for one evening.
Continuing into the Japanese Garden, the last one along the trail, visitors find a counter serving green tea biscuits, a treat usually served during a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. One exhibition room was dedicated to the gastronomy of the culture. Japanese tea pots, along with tea herbs are arranged on a tatami, a mat used as flooring in traditional Japanese rooms. Once outside again, the waters cascading down the rocks make up the horizon, leading towards the end of the trail with its soothing melody.
The lantern festival allows all to plunge into another world, admiring and absorbing the cultures with their friends and family. Many visitors said they are attracted to this festival precisely because it is a family activity where all generations can participate. The sensational experience is appealing to all ages so come along and join the lights until the 31st of October.