Lantern festival illuminates Asian culture and community

Two lanterns floating in Lake Osceola at the annual Lantern Festival on October 20, 2023. Photo credit: Elena Thomson

Nestled beneath the string lights of the architecture courtyard was an animated scene of students enjoying traditional food, lively music and cultural celebration for the University of Miami’s 2023 Lantern Festival on Friday night.

In an annual collaboration between the Asian American Students Association (AASA) and the School of Architecture Student Council (USoA), the event included a variety of campus organizations that took part in the night’s glowing festivities.

“It’s a celebration of all different lantern festivals across Asia, celebrating the end of the harvest season and wishing for good fortune for the next season,” said Justin Yang, a junior neuroscience major and internal vice president of AASA.

Before students were awarded their free boba and mooncakes, a traditional Chinese delicacy that’s paired with the mid-autumn festival, they were tasked with visiting six different organizations and participating in cultural mini-games.

Aidan Quizon, a sophomore media scoring and producing major and president of the Filipino Student Association (FSA), enjoyed the games as he helped table for his organization.

“It’s definitely fun to show off our culture with a little game which is basically a simulation of a traditional dance,” Quizon said. “A lot of people had fun doing it. I sure had a lot of fun running the event.”

From learning a Middle-Eastern board game with Delta Epsilon Psi (DEPsi), to a chopstick building contest with the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE), to a guessing game of lantern riddles with the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (UMCSSA), organizations were able to keenly blend cultural education with fun activities.

“[Lantern festivals] take on many different forms and varieties across Asia. That’s why when we invited different orgs to table today, we tried to represent every single part of Asia as best as we could,” Yang said.

Sunmi Dosu, a junior double majoring in accounting and psychology with a minor in Mandarin, admired the representation of different kinds of organizations.

“This is an Asian culture festival, but you have other people who can add their voices who aren’t necessarily heard,” Dosu said.

Student Government’s ECO Agency also joined in on the fun, handing out stickers and sharing how the lanterns will be composted and recycled following the lantern ceremony.

The festival was bustling with activity from 8-10 p.m., and it wasn’t long before hand-crafted lanterns painted Lake Osceola with light.

“There were already some lanterns out [on the lake], but seeing them and adding to them was super pretty,” Dosu said. “I was there with a friend who I haven’t seen in a while, so making the lanterns together was a really nice bonding experience, it was like a time to catch up.”

The dawning of the lanterns across the lake was a physical reminder of the Asian presence at UM, while also symbolizing the release of peace and good fortune into the world.

“Events like the Lantern Festival make our voices heard and make our voices loud so that everyone here on campus knows that Asian-Americans do exist here, we do have a culture to celebrate and we want to educate everyone else about that as well.”

Over 400 guests made their way through the courtyard Friday evening, allowing for an immersive experience into Asian culture for students of all backgrounds.

“While it’s not the largest population, there’s definitely a decent amount of Asian presence on campus if you look for it, so I think it is important for the different cultures to be represented,” Quizon said.

The Lantern Festival is one of two large events that AASA hosts each year, with the other being a Lunar New Year celebration in the spring.

“AASA is a social, cultural, educational and service organization, so we cover all four pillars within our events,” Yang said. “That’s why we put on these events, to spread awareness about our culture, teach everyone our own culture, and together we can celebrate why it’s so special for us.”