Randalls Island Chinese lantern festival brightens NYC winter

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In a holiday season swept of its customs, one tradition is still bringing light to this dark winter.

As a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was TV only, Radio City’s “Christmas Spectacular” has been canceled and the New Year’s Eve ball drop is set to be virtual, but the Chinese lantern festival LuminoCity is returning to Randalls Island, bringing a bit of illumination to the void in NYC’s Christmastime calendar.

The 10-acre entirely outdoor festival features all-new installations separated into five fantastical lands primed to offer a brief, bright escape from the year. There’s the lushly colored Mysterious Forest, desert-themed Dangerous Dunes, ethereal Mystical Moon Land and more. All have extensive backstories pegged to the child-friendly narrative of Lumi, a sentient light bulb, whose innocent narrative is told through the 30 to 45 minute experience as well as the event’s interactive website.

“It explores the delicate relationship between humans and nature, and will hopefully provoke a deeper consideration of the world around us,” said Xiaoyi Chen, the festival’s founder, adding that while the “heartwarming,” original story does have some current relevance, its main intention is escapist beauty. “We want to create a brief and wondrous escape from reality.”

This year’s new fleet of light sculptures includes 12 famous cat and dog influencers reimagined as the zodiac constellations and a 26-foot tall Christmas tree, all composed of handmade lanterns constructed by artisans in China and shipped to NYC.

While certain elements of the event have been eliminated in the name of COVID safety — including shuttle service to the island — the event is still accessible by car, public transit and foot, and there will still be on-site food trucks, a Lumi-themed gift shop and a small open-air gallery about the history and process of lantern-making.

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“We’ve had to scale back this year’s presentation due to increased travel and production restrictions brought on by the pandemic,” Chen told The Post, adding that other safety measures include timed-entry tickets, mandatory mask wearing and sanitizer throughout the park. Still, as “one of the only large, outdoor, holiday gatherings in NYC this year, we are excited for visitors to immerse themselves in the dazzling holiday lights,” she said. “In what has been a challenging year for many, we’re proud to present an event that brings light to the end of 2020.”

LuminoCity is open weekends and sporadic weekdays from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. through Jan. 10 on Randalls Island. Tickets: $17 to $55; LuminoCityFestival.com.



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