Doing Business in Taiwan: Celebrating the Taiwan Lantern Festival

Matthew MacLachlan

15 Feb 2011

The Taiwan Lantern Festival takes place every 15th day of the first month in correspondence with the lunar calendar, which translates this year into the 17th of February. People in Taiwan celebrate the New Year according to the lunar calendar, like many other Asian cultures.

So what is the Lantern Festival and how does it impact doing business in Taiwan? Do you need a different calendar when doing business in Taiwan? Or is there a special tradition you should know about to celebrate this day with your Taiwanese counterparts? Acknowledging and understanding cultural holidays such as the Lantern Festival is really important for anyone doing business in Taiwan.

Although the Lantern Festival is a rather young event, celebrated only since 1990 when the Taiwan Tourism Bureau introduced it to encourage the celebration of traditional folklore, its origins are linked to the Chinese Lantern Festival which dates back to 104 BC. The Lantern Festival is highly anticipated as it is one of the main events in Taiwan which draws a lot of attention and will generate a lot of business. This year Taiwan expects to see over six million visitors.

As the name suggests the main attraction are the lanterns which are diverse in colour and form. The centrepiece is always a giant lantern that epitomises the Chinese zodiac sign of the respective year. This year the 20.5-meter tall and 30 tonne heavy lantern features a rabbit holding a gold ingot to symbolise the collection of wealth for Taiwan. It is the largest LED-lit lantern in the world.  Janice Lai, Director General of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau said: “This year’s main lantern uses only LED lighting for the first time ever. It will be illuminated with a total of 200,000 LED lamps whose colours can be altered by digital control.“

The lantern lighting is accompanied by gongs and drumming and divided into six stages. Lanterns are lit to celebrate specific events or wishes. For instance there have been lanterns for Good Fortune to Taiwan, Peace on Earth, Celebration of 100 Years (Since the Foundation of the Republic in 1911) and Halcyon Days (signifying ideals of joy and prosperity). The festival is well organised and even includes a rehearsal day on the day before the main celebrations.

The Taiwan Lantern Festival combines a traditional theme with modern artefacts in a truly spectacular display. A Doing Business in Taiwan intercultural training course will help you to be fully immersed into the spectacle and understand all its different facets from the symbolism of the lanterns to the riddles written on the lanterns. Through an understanding of special celebrations and cultural traditions like the Taiwan Lantern Festival, a Doing Business in Taiwan course will help you to build strong relationships and show an appreciation of Taiwanese cultural values, attitudes and working practices.

If you are doing business in Taiwanor working with counterparts from Taiwan, you can show your interest in their culture by mentioning the festival and asking them how and where they will be celebrating. Talking about cultural traditions like the Lantern Festival can be a great way to get to know your Taiwanese counterparts.

 



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