On the evening of October 6, the University of Miami’s architecture courtyard transitioned from a quiet study spot to a hub of cultural celebration during the 2023 Lantern Festival. The event, organized annually by the Asian American Students Association (AASA) in collaboration with the School of Architecture Student Council (USoA), witnessed a seamless blend of tradition, unity, and festivity from 8–10 p.m.

As dusk settled, the courtyard blossomed into a space of vibrant interaction under the soft glow of string lights. Over 400 students navigated through the night’s offerings, engaging in a variety of activities organized by different campus groups. The festival’s motive shone bright: to embody and share the rich tapestry of Asian traditions centered around the theme of lantern festivals, marking the end of the harvest season.

Justin Yang, a junior neuroscience major and the internal vice president of AASA, explained the broader meaning behind the event. “It’s a celebration of all different lantern festivals across Asia, celebrating the end of the harvest season and wishing for good fortune for the next season,” he stated.

The path to enjoying traditional Chinese delicacies, such as boba and mooncakes, was intertwined with a journey of cultural exploration. Students were nudged to visit six different organizations, each offering a mini-game encapsulating a slice of cultural essence. These interactions ranged from learning a Middle-Eastern board game with Delta Epsilon Psi to unraveling lantern riddles with the Chinese Students and Scholars Association.

Lanterns floating on wter

Aidan Quizon, president of the Filipino Student Association, reveled in the opportunity to showcase his culture through a dance simulation game. “I sure had a lot of fun running the event,” he stated.

One of the festival’s highlights was the lantern ceremony on Lake Osceola. The sight of handcrafted lanterns adrift on the calm waters painted a serene picture against the night sky. Sunmi Dosu, a junior student, found the act of lantern-making and the ensuing display a heartwarming opportunity to reconnect with an old friend.

As the lanterns floated across Lake Osceola, they manifested a symbolic blend of tradition and unity among the diverse student body. This physical depiction of Asian culture was not only a sight to behold but a message of peace and good fortune emanating from the Asian community at UM.

Moreover, the festival opened avenues for other organizations to contribute. The ECO Agency, a part of the Student Government, highlighted environmental consciousness by sharing plans for composting and recycling the lanterns post-ceremony.

The festival’s ripple effects went beyond the night as it echoed the essence of Asian representation on campus. “Events like the Lantern Festival make our voices heard and make our voices loud so that everyone here on campus knows that Asian-Americans do exist here, we do have a culture to celebrate, and we want to educate everyone else about that as well,” Yang emphasized.

The Lantern Festival stands as a precursor to AASA’s next big event, the Lunar New Year celebration, encompassing the organization’s four pillars of social, cultural, educational, and service objectives. Through these events, the AASA and participating organizations continue to foster a sense of community and cultural appreciation, enriching the university’s multicultural fabric.

In the words of Quizon, the presence of diverse cultures on campus is palpable “if you look for it,” and events like the Lantern Festival significantly contribute to portraying this diversity in the light of unity and learning.