One of Music City's brand-new fall/winter attractions is gearing up to dazzle your family when Zoolumination: A Chinese Festival of Lights illuminates the Nashville Zoo from Nov. 15, 2019 – Feb. 2, 2020. It's the biggest lantern festival in the United States featuring more than 500 hand-crafted creations on display across 60 acres of the zoo's grounds.
Nashville Parent made a trip out to to the zoo to take a look at the progress of the set up, and we can tell you that you and your kids are sure to love what's shaping up to be an enchanting experience. The structures are strewn throughout the zoo's paths, so as you meander through the property, you'll come across different displays, including florals and fruit trees, zoo animals, traditional Chinese lantern designs and a giant 200-foot long dragon! In addition, back in the Grassmere Home area, you'll find Santa's Village featuring different buildings, reindeer, Santa's sleigh, a life-size locomotive and more. The real-life Santa Claus himself will be there every night to greet children through Monday, Dec. 23.
Zoolumination is in partnership with the Zigong Lantern Group from Zigong, China. Zigong has opened lantern festivals in 16 countries and more than 30 cities around the globe.
“Zigong is famous for lanterns,” says Li Lingqiao, Zigong Lantern Group foreman. “It’s a special place for building lanterns and the skill of building lanterns is a combination of arts and technical skills.”
There are 48 Chinese nationalists at the zoo (who have been here for weeks) proudly working on putting it all together. It's fascinating to learn that the material that's fitted onto the metal framework is silk, and much of it is hand-painted.
All of the pieces that can already be seen are magnificent in the daytime just as they are. Seeing them lit up at night is going to be an experience not to miss!
Nashville Zoo plans for Zoolumination to be an annual event, with new pieces coming in during subsequent years to keep things fresh.
A LITTLE CHINESE LANTERN HISTORY
The history of Chinese lanterns dates back to the Eastern Han dynasty from 25 – 220 AD. The original use of Chinese lanterns was to keep flames from catching things on fire, but over time the meaning and tradition have shifted into celebrations popular today.
“Over the years, lanterns have become a symbol of festivals, cheerfulness, rejuvenation and togetherness,” says Qingjun Le, Ph.D., associate professor of Asian studies and Chinese at Belmont University. “All this value has been embedded into the culture of using lanterns,” he adds.
Lanterns are also a big part of the Chinese New Year at the end of January (it'll be on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020; Nashville Zoo will be hosting a celebratory event that day).
“Before people are ready to go back to work after the New Year, the tradition is to use lanterns on the last day of the celebration,” Le says. “Everyone uses lanterns, including families, temples and businesses to celebrate.”
ZOOLUMINATION HOURS & TICKETS
Zoolumination runs Nov. 15 – Feb. 2. Hours are daily 5 – 9 p.m. (closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day). Tickets are $19 adults, $14 ages 2 – 12, free ages 23 months and younger. Zoo members receive a $2 discount.
Your best bet is the Platinum Pass. It grants you unlimited visits throughout the duration of Zoolumination for $29 adults and teens, $19 ages 2 – 12.
To purchase Zoolumination tickets, click HERE.
Nashville Zoo is located at 3777 Nolensville Road, Nashville. Call 615-833-1534 or visit nashvillezoo.org.
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