Feast of Lanterns
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Pacific Grove, California's Feast of Lanterns is an annual celebration, over 100 years old, of the legend of the Blue Willow, a fabricated "Chinese" story. However, in Pacific Grove's version of the story, the fleeing couple turns into monarch butterflies (because Pacific Grove likes to be known as "Butterfly Town, USA"), as opposed to birds, to flee the evil mandarin.
Some type of Japanese/Chinese boat parade with lanterns did occur sometime between 1875 until 1905 with roots in the Chautauqua's Illumination Night first practiced at the original Chautauqua, New York however, currently there is no written scholarship to refer.
The Feast of Lanterns was originally developed in 1905 to spark interest in the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle. Participation in the program had diminished, and organizers felt that a large closing ceremony would reinvigorate engagement with the CLSC. The festival happened annually until 1917, and then only intermittently until 1958, when the Pacific Grove City Council revived the event.
The Feast of Lanterns play is performed on the Saturday of the last full weekend of every July, and the small town of Pacific Grove crams onto Lover's Point Beach to watch the show. In support of the town-wide holiday, lanterns can be seen hanging on the porches of many local homes. Lantern soup and lantern pie are delicious delicacies to be found exclusively at the "Feast of Lanterns." The afternoon preceding the Feast of Lanterns, the city holds its annual Pet Parade, which circles its main street, Lighthouse Avenue.
The Feast of Lanterns holiday ends with propelled fireworks as well as unique Chinese board fireworks and lit Torei gates over Lover's Point Beach, with Queen Topaz and her peasant lover, Chang, escaping safely together.
The Royal Court
The Royal Court of Feast of Lanterns Princesses is a group of 4-9 high school aged girls and boys who are citizens of Pacific Grove. The number of Princesses there are depends on how many apply. Each princess is a different gem (i.e., Princess Pearl, Princess Tourmaline, Princess Turquoise, etc.), and they are led by the Feast of Lanterns Queen, who is known as Queen Topaz. Queen Topaz is the star of the annual skit. The boys, which have been recently allowed to participate, pose as male faux Chinese assistants or as the young character Chang in the play. The Royal Court spends their entire month of July establishing themselves in the community, visiting retirement homes, preschools, and other events while giving out their personal signed trading cards.