01 of 07
Every Fall Montreal Lights Up with Lanterns
Gardens of Light, Montreal's mirror to Imperial China's ancient traditions resembles the Lantern Festival in many ways. But it's not held on the 15th day of the Chinese New Year like in the motherland. Instead, the Montreal Botanical Garden's annual Gardens of Light event coincides with one of China's other favorite festivals, the Moon Festival, a harvest season celebration also observed in Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and other Asian nations that features lotus seed paste filled moon cakes lanterns.
For the 2017 edition, Gardens of Light runs from September 8 through October 31, 2017 at the Montreal Botanical Garden. Find out admission rates, opening hours and location details.
Hundreds of intricately constructed lanterns, be it in the shape of animals, vehicles and even people, are part and parcel of the Moon Festival. And Montreal's Gardens of Light mimics their spirit in every which way September through November, this, since 1993. A major annual... draw, having grown to become one of the leading fall season attractions in Montreal, Gardens of Light appeals to pretty much every age group and background, whether tourist or resident.
Keep scrolling to see photos of Montreal's Gardens of Light.
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Those Lanterns Look Like Something Out of Shanghai
An experienced traveler or Chinese mainland resident might notice an uncanny resemblance to typical Moon Festival lanterns, so much so much so that some may swear that the Botanical Garden's lanterns look like something straight out of Shanghai. That's because they are. Shanghai is one of Montreal's sister cities and is an essential partner in making the Gardens of Light possible. The lanterns are constructed in Shanghai based on the theme and designs of Montreal Botanical Garden artistic designer My Quynh Duong. Once built in Shanghai, they're shipped to Canada where it takes a team of local assemblers roughly two months to prepare and mount anywhere from 900 to 1,000 lanterns on garden grounds. About 200 of those lanterns are newly crafted every year, with the recent exception of the 2012 season which saw the creation of 1,000 new lanterns from scratch to commemorate the event's 20th anniversary.
Gardens of Light or Magic of Lanterns?
For 19 years, the annual attraction was called Magic of Lanterns or La Magie des lanternes. But in 2012, just in time for the event's 20th anniversary, the name changed to Gardens of Light, ostensibly marking the addition of the Japanese Garden to the fold. Previously, only the Chinese Garden and its brigade of lanterns were featured. In contrast, the Japanese Garden has no lanterns, instead proposing a multicolored lighting scheme that brings the darkened garden to life after the sun sets. It's a different concept, a more subtle and subdued setup compared to the lanterns, adding a touch of zen to the overall experience.
Gardens of Light: Tips on Beating the Crowd and Making the Most of Your Visit
As I said earlier, Gardens of Light is a top Montreal attraction, not only in the fall, but in general. Consequently, it gets packed in the Chinese and Japanese Garden if you don't play your cards right. But you love crowds and the sardine lifestyle? Excellent. Then go on a weekend and wait until the last week of the event to attend. You'll fit right in. But if you have a soft spot for open space, heed my advice and plan your lantern outing on a weekday evening at dusk. Why dusk? It's interesting to see how the lanterns and the Chinese garden itself change in appearance as the sun sets. It offers a contrasting perspective you wouldn't otherwise experience. And do consider dropping by when it rains. The masses generally stay home, rendering the experience all the more idyllic. Bring an umbrella, a good pair of rain boots and you'll be fine.
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Chinese Lanterns at the Montreal Botanical Garden: Gardens of Light in Photos