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Glowing lanterns brighten the Potomac for Lunar New Year

Sarah Beth Guevara/ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — Chinese artisans have crafted 100 paper lanterns lit by 10,000 LED lights to celebrate the Lunar New Year, according to The REACH at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., where the free outdoor exhibition is being displayed nightly through Sunday.

The lanterns, some of which stand parallel to the Potomac River, include “playful pandas, butterflies and flowers, frogs and flamingos, sea creatures, and more,” according to REACH.

Tuesday is Lunar New Year, a traditional holiday observed in many Asian cultures. Each year is represented by an animal from the Chinese Zodiac. This is the year of the Tiger.

Over 4,500 people visited the lanterns last weekend alone, according to Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter.

“Whether you’re driving by over the Teddy Roosevelt bridge, or you come as a destination to walk through the center, it’s just really, really beautiful,” Rutter said.

Next to the lanterns shaped like squirrels in the mushroom forest, Ming Gault, who recently moved to the area, reflected on her Chinese American heritage.

“Every year I learn something new about what it means to be like Asian and Chinese American,” said Gault, who was adopted. “This year, it really just means friends. A lot of times New Year’s is for time with my family, but for me, my family is like a found family and my friends.”

Visiting the lanterns — which have been displayed annually since 2016 — has become a tradition for many Asian Americans like Grace Jeong and her boyfriend, Gary Winthorg, both from Virginia. Jeong said this year has been challenging with attacks on Asian Americans and the pandemic but she hopes the new year will bring brighter times.

“I feel like, during the two years that we’ve been cooped up, a lot of people have gotten really used to being inside and being alone as well,” said Jeong. “Hopefully, as things get better people do get together and enjoy events like this where it helps people come outside and enjoy different things.”

For the next week, the REACH will host various Chinese and Korean artists, musicians and performances.

Eric Fayeulle contributed to this report.

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