5 min read

Water Lantern Festival: Guide to Making Memories!

Experience the magic of the Water Lantern Festival, an event that lights up lakes across the USA with messages of love and hope. Perfect for families and couples seeking a memorable experience.

Tobi Miles
July 1, 2022
Water Lantern Festival: Guide to Making Memories!

The Water Lantern Festival movement is growing in popularity all across the United States of America. What started as smWatall, has now grown to Water Lantern Festivals popping up over all U.S.A states and even across Canada and Mexico.

With the fast paced lifestyle many of us live, events like these offer a moment to express feelings for loved ones, find your zen and spark a connection with a community of individuals. All in the name of peace, love of harmony.

What is the Water Lantern Festival?

At Water Lantern Festival, thousands of people come together for an incredibly magical and even emotional experience for some. As evening falls, thousands of lanterns are launched onto lakes, which light up the water in the most magnificent way.

However, the Water Lantern Festival has an even more emotional meaning, which makes it a truly unique community event.

Unknown | Wikimedia Commons

On each lantern, the owner writes a series of heartfelt messages of love, hope, peace, unity, happiness and connection. These messages can be deeply personal for example, wishing eternal peace to a lost loved one or more general such as wishing more unity in the world ,the end of war, hate and oppression.

These messages, are pushed out on the lake in unison with many others sending good energy out into the universe. Although, not a religious event many have felt a deep spiritual connection and meaning from the occasion.

Ka23 13 | Wikimedia Commons

Water Lantern Festival Meaning:

Can launching a water lantern help you emotionally?

Psychology Behind the Water Lantern Festival:

Writing down your thoughts, feeling and emotions is highly recommended by many psychologists as a great way to help express positive emotions and let go of negative ones. This is called the "Bridget Jones effect"  in popular terms, where one would write a diary to keep there emotions and thoughts in.

According to psychologists from the University of Rochester:

Writing your thoughts down can help ease a variety of mental health issues from , reducing stress to easing depression and lowering anxiety.

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"I promise to keep dreaming..." We love seeing all the inspirational messages on the lanterns. What are you going to write on your lantern?

A post shared by  Water Lantern Festival (@waterlanternfestival) on 2019-07-10T23:15:00.000+06:00

Nero Linguistic Programming (NLP):

In Nero Linguistic Programming (NLP) training writing dow thoughts and feelings and help you to let go of negative emotional attachments, such as hate, guilt or sadness.

In some cases, NLP asks the subject to write down their negative emotions or attachments and then burn the paper. The visualisation of the thoughts being destroyed is enough to make the situation "Real" for the human mind.

Thus the heart felt water lantern notes at the festival, act like snapshots of emotions and visually seeing them be released out into the universe, make them "Real" for your mind. No matter what your religious, or spiritual beliefs.

The same is true in Meditation training, where the subject is asked to breath in pure universal energy and breath out negativity attachments/emotions.

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Happy Independence Day! We are so grateful to our soldiers and for our freedom. ❤

A post shared by  Water Lantern Festival (@waterlanternfestival) on 2019-07-05T01:49:00.000+06:00

Studies and Medical Evidence:

According to a study "Putting feelings in words" by Matthew Lieberman, a psychologist at the University of California in Los Angeles:

Medical scans, showed brain activity when someone wrote down heartfelt emotions, matched those of Volunteers who were trying to control their emotions.

"Writing seems to help the brain regulate emotion unintentionally. Whether it's writing things down in a diary, writing bad poetry, or making up song lyrics that should never be played on the radio, it seems to help people emotionally"

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Want to know how make the most of your festival experience? We are sharing some tips on capturing beautiful photographs. ⠀ 1) Try to keep the camera steady, so the shot isn't blurry. ⠀ 2) Shoot around sunset to get the best lighting.⠀ 3) Turn off the flash.⠀ Swipe up in our stories for the full list of tips and tricks to getting amazing photographs.

A post shared by  Water Lantern Festival (@waterlanternfestival) on 2019-06-22T02:30:00.000+06:00

According to Lieberman:

"Men tend to show greater benefits and that is a bit counterintuitive. But the reason might be that women more freely put their feelings into words, so this is less of a novel experience for them. For men it's more of a novelty!"

Thus it can be derived that writing down emotions, thoughts and feeling at the Water Lantern Festival really DOES HELP YOU, emotionally and is great fun for the whole family Mom, Dad and the Kids!

Families at the Water Lantern Festival:

For Families, it can be great fun kids get really excited and it encourages their creativity. Definitely a place where memories are made!

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A post shared by Water Lantern Festival (@waterlanternfestival) on 2019-01-03T07:10:00.000+06:00

Couples at the Water Lantern Festival:

For couple, it can make a real special moment, when you both express your true feelings on a water lantern.

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“It was such a BEAUTIFUL NIGHT and just so amazing to be a part of something that brings strangers together from all over to set goals share dreams and CREATE MAGIC ON THE WATER” ✨💛🌅- @__cosette__

A post shared by  1000 Lights Festival (@1000lightsfestival) on 2019-02-21T09:45:00.000+06:00

Entertainment at the Water Lantern Festival:

So apart from releasing great feelings, karma and emotions at the water lantern festival, remember it's still a festival! So expect great vibes, live music and a variety of tasty food vendors!

When I visited the water lantern festival, I felt a real sense of community and together which seems to have been lost on so many levels these days.

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Did you know that at each event we try to find a variety of different foods from some of the best local food trucks? There's something for everyone to love at our events. ❤ Tag your favorite food trucks below so we know who to look for in your city!

A post shared by  Water Lantern Festival (@waterlanternfestival) on 2019-07-19T00:20:00.000+06:00

Are Water Lanterns Environmentally Friendly?

This is a big question on many peoples lips, when they here about thousands of Water Lanterns being launched into lakes across the United States. The answer the yes, due to the material of the lantern the great clean up efforts completed by the Water Lantern Festival team.

What is the Water Lantern Made from?

The water Lanterns are made from rice paper and bamboo, so are bio degradable and eco friendly. You may have heard in the news about Chinese lanterns which contain metal, thus when they land the metal will not degrade.

Can the lanterns sink?

Most lanterns are designed so they won't sink, however if it is windy they can tip over. usually though members of the Water Lantern teams are on standby to recover them before they sink.

Spiegel | Wikimedia Commons

No Trace Clean up Policy:

The main benefit of water lanterns over your traditional Chinese sky lantern is that they can be clearly tracked and cleaned up after the event. After the festival I noticed a great clean up effort offered and even noticed many team members picking up trash which wasn't even part of the water lantern festival! Part of their "We  will leave the area cleaner than we found it" Policy.

Can you bring your own Lanterns?

Usually, outside lanterns are not permitted, this is due to the environmental affect and checks, which would have to be made. However, extra lanterns can usually be purchased on site.

Light, Water Lanterns & Spirituality:

In Chinese Spirituality, Lanterns are used to guide the way for the spirit of their ancestors to come and give them blessing.

In Christianity and many other religions, Light is often described as God or Jesus, Light represents the heavens and darkness represents evil. Light is also a great symbol of life. Candles and flames are commonly used as a symbol of the lord and used in many religious ceremonies, all over the world.

Water Lantern Festival, At Fairfax, Virginia. 

Water Lantern Festival Locations:

Outside of China, there are two main organisations which setup and run the Water Lantern Festivals. The largest and most popular is called WATER LANTERN FESTIVAL at www.waterlanternfestival.com  this is ran by One World LLC, with a head office based in Utah.

The Water Lantern Festival began in 2018 with events in 34 cities with a brought in a combined attendance of over 130,000 participants. Since then the event has grew from strength to strength and they now have over 100 events planned across the U.S and Canada.

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A post shared by Water Lantern Festival (@waterlanternfestival) on 2018-06-03T05:52:00.000+06:00

Locations include:

All U.S States, a variety of cities in each.


  • Calgary, AB
  • Edmonton, AB
  • Halifax, NS
  • Winnipeg, MB
  • Mississauga, ON
  • Ottawa, ON
  • Montreal (français)


5 Locations across Mexico.

Other providers include: www.1000lights.com  , these run events across multiple U.S but are smaller in size by comparison to the One World Water Lantern Festival.

www.thelanternfest.com is a lower budget version, with many promo codes available online. However, we have not reviewed this and it does not seem to have the same credibility as One world water lantern festival and 1000 lights.

If you have been to any water lantern festivals in drop in it the comments below and let us know your thoughts.

Water Lantern Festival at fort worth Texas

Water Lantern Festival Reviews:

The Water Lantern Festival generally receives great reviews for being a fun, family friendly event, which is well planned and well executed. They have a team of production experts, Voted Number 1 by U.S.A Today and is a 5 star BBB Accredited Business.

Previous Testimonials Include:

"The Water Lantern Festival was the most awesome event I have every been to! The Love, the emotions, the spirituality that filled the air was so overwhelming."

Cindy Q.

"One of the most healing and moving experiences of my life. I am a cancer survivor, 38 months in remission. 12 years ago this month I lost my stepson. My husband and I did not know really what to expect but the way the festival was run and the meditation was very healing to both my husband and myself." Name Unknown.

At Town and Tourist, we awarded the event Best Mindful Festival in North America 2019.  It's a Magical, Mindful and truly awe inspiring event!

Water Lantern Festival Tickets:

Ticket prices range between $25 for early booking to $40 for on the day of the festival.

For more info and to purchase tickets for any of the events see the following link.

History of Lantern Festivals:

Water Lanterns and Sky Lanterns originated in China thousands of years ago. The Sky Lanterns were originally created for communication allowing signals to be sent over great distances.

It's thought, that although the Chinese have been credited with many great inventions from Tea, to gunpowder and even the toothbrush. The actual Chinese Lantern was created out of necessity rather than as just a decoration.

Awe Inspiring Chinese Lanterns at Moon Festival

The Chinese did not have, a essential building material which is the backbone of many lamps and Lanterns in the west, Glass! However, they did have a great skills in utilising paper to create a series of inventions.

Therefore the Chinese, created strong paper which was still thin enough to let light pass through. Thus, the worlds first portable light was invented, the lantern!

They then adapted these to float on water and glide in the sky. They were also used to light homes and even as battlefield beacons.

A famous military general named Zhuge Liang, used the paper lanterns to help the army march through the night ready for a daylight attack.

Origin of the Lantern Festival:

Ironically over many years, the Lantern became a symbol of hope, peace and was used in many festivities. From the time since the Han Dynasty, many lanterns were decorated beautifully with good wishes and even cryptic riddles.

Chiang Mai Lantern Festival

International Water Lantern Festivals:

If you fancy heading out to east Asia, it makes sense to plan your trip to coincide with some fantastic Water Lantern Festivals and Sky Lantern Festivals.

Moon Festival:

Moon festival is Mid-Autumn harvest festival celebrated notably by the Chinese and Vietnamese people, during September/October.

During the festivals, which attract thousands from all over the world. Many children & adults write heart felt notes and wishes on the lanterns before casting them of into the water under the moonlight.

Fun Fact: Moon Cakes are traditionally eaten at the event. Historically, mooncakes were used during the Yuan Dynasty to pass secret messages, which helped the Chinese overthrow their Mongolian rulers!

Chiang Mai Lantern Festival - Thailand

A hugely popular lantern festival celebrated all over thailand but especially the north, Chiang Mai. The festival known as Yi Peng translates to “two full moon day,”  this is corresponds to the full moon over the second month.


Insider Tip:

There is so much info on this festival, but people still seem to get confused about the dates. The best time is to make sure your in Chiang Mai, Thailand for the 22nd November for this fantastic occasion. Loi Krathong festival also runs parallel.

Ghost Festival:

Every August, Many Buddhist & Taoist believers in East Asia celebrate the mystical Ghost Festival, a spectacular day where thousands of colorful, creative and wacky water lanterns are launched. They are meant to symbolise the ghosts of spirits of ancestors living once more!

Thousands of Lotus Flower Water Lanterns and creative Animal Water lanterns are launched at Ghost Water Lantern Festival in China. Source: Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images

Need help booking a trip to Asia?

If you wish to book a great Vacation in Asia, Thailand, China, Vietnam.. and check out some life changing lantern festivals while you are there. Drop us a email Mail(at)townandtourist.com , with the number of people and preferred dates, then one of our travel experts will get back to you with the perfect stress free travel itinerary!

For other Unique U.S Festivals check out:

Florida Keys Underwater Music Festival!

Florida Keys Underwater Music Festival, is a real quirky Extravaganza!

WoofStock - The Largest Dog festival in North America!

Peace and Love at Woof stock Dog Festival!

For around the World, Check out the Incredible:

Golden Eagle Festival in Mongolia!

The Magnificent Golden Eagle Festival Mongolia

Tobi Miles
Article updated:
March 28, 2024
A nomadic wordsmith savoring the world's flavors and penning stories that turn every journey into an epic.
Find me on Twitter

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