Monday, September 16, 2013

Keep the magic alive

Lanterns in Chinatown (Taken with the Diana F+ using Lomography Redscale 100 ISO 120 film.)
Buying lanterns during the lantern festival was a BIG deal for me when I was child. I didn't get many toys (or books) when I was growing up so getting any thing was a real treat for me. But my parents are very traditional, and my brother and I always received a lantern from them every year without fail.

We would eat dinner first, followed by a short stroll to a neighborhood stall selling lanterns. The shopkeeper had hung rolls and rolls of colourful lanterns in front of his shop such that it looked like it was raining lanterns. It was a thrill to look at them spin around when the wind blew. I liked how the cellophane (we knew it as 'glass paper' then) were stretched tight across the wires, and how each lantern was different as each was handmade and hand painted.

I was thrilled when the school taught us how to make simple cellophane lanterns. I learnt that rubbing a little water on the cellophane made them taut and ironed out wrinkles. It was magic.

My mom-in-law and I always bought the boys' lanterns without them present in the past. This year, however, I thought I'd let them choose the lanterns themselves. I've noticed the decreasing amount of traditional cellophane lanterns over the years but this time, with the boys, I felt the impact of  modernisation more keenly than ever.

As expected, many shops were selling plastic lanterns, which play annoying music when you switch on the lantern. The loud digital tunes are a jarring reminder that times are different. In the past, shopkeepers were like proud owners showing pieces of art. The lanterns they sold took pride of place in their shop. But now, as plastic lanterns are produced in bulk in factories, I smell disinterest, commerce, and plastic.

I don't think I'll bring the boys lantern shopping again. Perhaps I am being selfish. Maybe I want the magic for myself. But what's wrong with that?

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