Lighting the way to a more connected city

At Play Cultural Heart

Over three wonderful weeks every spring, Adelaide Festival Centre’s OzAsia Festival fills the city with the best of theatre, dance, music, visual arts, literature, film, food and cultural events from across Asia. 

This year, OzAsia Festival runs from 17 October to 3 November and includes the return of the spectacular Moon Lantern Parade on Saturday 19 October (3:00 pm to 9:00pm). Drawing tens of thousands of people to the grassy banks of the River Torrens / Karrawirra Pari in Elder Park, this family-focused free community event is a celebration of craftmanship, culture and connection.

The biggest of its kind in Australia, Adelaide’s Moon Lantern Parade is inspired by the Moon Lantern Festival (also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival), celebrated by many cultures throughout Asia on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Lunar Calendar, coinciding with the full moon.

A 3000-year-old tradition originally celebrating the moon and harvesting of crops, today the Mid-Autumn Festival is an important time for family and friends to get together and carry out age-old customs like giving gifts of mooncakes to wish loved ones a long and happy life, performing dragon or lion dances for good luck and lighting and carrying lanterns.

If you’ve never been to Adelaide’s Moon Lantern Parade, this is the year to change all that because 2019 will see no less than 650 lanterns lighting up the Adelaide night sky in a kaleidoscope of colour. The majority (600) are small lanterns, handmade by local school students and community groups under instruction from seasoned artisans.

Oz Asia 2018 Moon Lantern Parade photo Daniel Purvis
photo-icon Daniel Purvis

The showstoppers though are the 50 large lanterns – each its own art work. This year will see the return of the giant Hong Kong Dragon, that needs over 40 people to carry it, as well as the white tiger, flying rainbow lorikeets, schools of fish swimming alongside a traditional junk ship, a pair of pandas, a flying pig, a dancing lion and Wayang Golek puppets. A lavender rhinoceros is one of two new lanterns to look out for this year.

“The large lanterns are made by highly skilled lantern artists based in Adelaide who’ve been trained in traditional techniques with cane and paper, and also work in contemporary materials of steel and fabric."
Simone Romaniuk, OzAsia Festival’s Creative Director.

“They work for several months each year to prepare for the parade, building new lanterns and repairing favourites that come back as regulars. The lanterns themselves are very detailed and labour intensive. Made from wire or cane structures, they’re illuminated with over 1,000 LED lightbulbs, and covered with hundreds of metres of fabric or paper.

“They can have hundreds of joins making up the structure, and every join is tied by hand. A team of electricians install the lights and check the wiring, before the lanterns are covered in fabric and receive any finishing touches on faces or paint detailing.”

The lanterns are undoubtedly the centrepiece of this event, but the contribution by 36 different community groups to the program creates other avenues for meaningful connection.

Oz Asia 2018 Moon Lantern Parade photo by Daniel Purvis
photo-icon Daniel Purvis

“The performances and workshops throughout the day allow communities to introduce people from all backgrounds to their traditional dance, theatre, art, sport and food,” said Simone.

One of those groups is the Gouger Street-based School of Chinese Music & Arts which has been involved in every Moon Lantern Parade held at OzAsia Festival. This year their junior orchestra will put on a Guzheng ensemble performance at 3:00 pm.

Woman playing Guzheng

The Guzheng is a traditional Chinese harp and the School’s Artistic Principal and founder, Zhao Liang, has been playing it since she was just six.

Born in Singapore, Zhao moved to Australia with her parents in 1998 – with the family making Adelaide their home in 2002. For her, events like the Moon Lantern Parade – which honour a significant traditional custom and not only create a visual spectacle but offer the chance for interested groups to take part – contribute immensely to the city’s cultural fabric.

“The Mid-Autumn Festival is about the reunion of families and the Moon Lantern Parade in Adelaide is a reunion of cultures within the South Australian family,” said Zhao.

“Allowing community groups to participate and showcase their talents is a beautiful way of connecting cultures within this city.”

While music is her world, Zhao admits that, like so many others, it’s the beautiful lanterns that are her favourite part of the Moon Lantern Parade event.

This year, just over a thousand people, including 400 school students, will participate in the official Parade which begins at 8:00 pm to a live music soundtrack and ends with a fireworks display.

Visit the OzAsia Festival for the latest updates on the Moon Lantern Parade and all the other amazing shows you can catch in this year’s program. Also, if you'd like to find out Simone Romaniuk's program recommendations for different ages and interest groups, check out our article: OzAsia returns in overdrive.

The City of Adelaide is a proud supporter of the 2019 OzAsia Festival.

Article by

Skye Murtagh

Skye Murtagh

Skye is Adelaide Living's main driving force. She is passionate about sharing stories from all walks of life. When she's not busy weaving beautiful words together, she's singing a line or two from her favourite song.