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Lotus Lantern Walk: Light Up the Night

November 18 @ 6:30 pm 8:00 pm EST

As the days shorten and the nights get longer, the Lotus Lantern & Luminaria Program is an initiative to bring the glow of lanterns to our community and to shine a light on those working to address food and housing insecurity in Bloomington. We celebrate lantern traditions from around the world, and this year, we’ll be making Egyptian paper lanterns. Each event in this program is also an item/fundraising drive for the organization we’re spotlighting — Beacon, Inc. Beacon has six major programs in Bloomington, which together help people in poverty not only survive but thrive: Shalom Center, Phil’s Kitchen, Friends Place, Street Outreach, Rapid Re-housing, and Crawford Homes. Their crucial work is very much like a lantern in our community, lighting the way. 

We are hosting five public lantern-making workshops (registration required) & item drives for Beacon, Inc in November. Our series of Lantern Workshops culminates in the Lotus Lantern Walk around Bloomington on November 18 from 6:00 p.m – 8:00 p.m. All are welcome to attend the Lantern Walk ( no registration required) and to bring any items to donate to Beacon, Inc. from their Wish List below that evening as well. Workshops are:

Workshop space is limited, so sign-up is required. (Click dates above for Eventbrite sign-up.) If attending a workshop or the Lantern Walk, please bring an item or items from Beacon’s Wish List below. 

  • Boots – male & female adults
  • Gloves & Winter Hats – adult  
  • Sleeping Bags & Blankets
  • Tents & Tarps
  • Backpacks & Rolling Suitcases
  • Thermal Underwear & Jeans – adults
  • Sweatpants & Sweatshirts – adults
  • Deodorant & Razors
  • Toothpaste & Toothbrushes
  • Shampoo & Body wash
  • Laundry soap – liquid
  • Socks, especially wool
  • Rain Ponchos & Umbrellas
  • Towels & Wash Cloths
  • Over-the-Counter Medications (pain relief, cold & flu, allergy, heartburn)
  • Coffee & Tea
  • Simple first aid supplies (band aids, alcohol wipes, antibiotic ointment)

*Beacon requests travel size toiletry items when possible, but family size are also certainly welcome.

You can also make monetary donations to Beacon, Inc here. Please write ‘Lotus’ in the note of your donation.

About the Lantern Walk: 

During the Lantern Walk, people who have built a lantern will be invited on a walk that begins at the Lotus Firebay, where they can pick up a free LED tea light candle. From the Lotus Firebay, we’ll head to the B-line, and continue to the Showers Plaza. We’ll circle around and stop for a communal singing of a couple of lantern songs. We’ll then head back to the Lotus Firebay doors for some hot chocolate. 

You can go here to check out the lantern walk songs that are part of our Bloomington tradition: https://www.lotusfest.org/lotus-lantern-walk-music/. We invite you to learn these songs, whose melodies are pretty simple. When you join the lantern walk, a lead will begin the songs, for everyone who knows them to join in. You can print these songs out to bring with you, or just to learn them. We’ll also have a few paper copies on hand.

Lantern Walks are a common part of several different cultural traditions. In the Netherlands, Germany, and Austria, people celebrate Martinmas (named in honor of St. Martin), by walking with their lanterns and singing songs about the light their lanterns are giving off. Martinmas is celebrated on or around November 11, and although once a religious holiday, today it is a secular celebration for many lantern enthusiasts.

On the Chinese Lunar New Year, which happens in late January to early February, people celebrate with fireworks and parades that include vibrant lanterns, floats, and dragon and lion dances. Although the red lanterns are iconic, there are many different kinds of paper lanterns created for the Lunar New Year celebration.

The tradition of luminarias comes from Mexico. They were originally small fires lit to find the way, for example, as the Pueblo Indians in New Mexico have done for many years outside their homes, to light their way to church on Christmas Eve. More recently, the tradition has involved brown or white paper bags, with some sand to weigh them down and a candle placed in the sand, often with a design created on the bag to let a figure shine through.