I have a weakness for Disney movies and one of my favourites is Tangled. While the story is sweet and entertaining, I was most drawn to the part when they release lanterns into the sky. After that, I became pretty enchanted with the idea and wanted to find a way that I could have a similar experience at some point in my life.

Sky Lanterns have been around for centuries, as far back as the 3rd century BC. Their origins trace back to Chinese military history where troops would use them to signal each other. It is also believed that the Chinese military strategist Zhuge Liang, nicknamed Kongming, signalled his troops by writing a message on a sky lantern and releasing it when surrounded by an enemy. To this day, sky lanterns are still referred to as Kongming lanterns in China.

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Sky lanterns are commonly used in weddings, parties, and festivals as they’re associated with good luck, making wishes, and sending problems and worries away. Popular destinations to experience a sky lantern festival include China, Taiwan, and Thailand, the latter of which hosts one of the world’s most popular sky lantern festival Lanna Yi Peng in Chiang Mai. While I knew that festivals with these types of lanterns were prevalent in several Asian countries, that part of the world was nowhere in my near future travel plans so I just put it on the back-burner for another time.

Luckily for me, a less renowned lantern festival incorporating these lanterns is held each year in Poznan, Poland. While travelling to Poland and Ukraine to attend the Eurocup in 2012, I stumbled upon the Midsummer Night Festival, or Noc Kupaly, in Poznan, Poland. I was ecstatic to not only attend this top football event, but experience a long held bucket list item of mine as well.

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Kupala Night (Noc Kupaly in polish) is a Slavic celebration in honour of the pagan goddess of harvest and love. It was later transformed into a Christian festivity to honour Saint John and takes place in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia on June 23/24. In Poland, Noc Kupaly occurs on June 21st, coinciding with the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. That evening, the people of Poznan celebrate the arrival of the new season by releasing thousands of sky lanterns into the night.

In 2011, the city broke the record for most sky lanterns released simultaneously, with more than 11,000 lanterns decorating the skies of above Poznan during Noc Kupaly. The record is currently held by the Philippines, but given the enthusiasm of the Polish people, I wouldn’t be surprised if they recapture the title.

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While I was excited about the Noc Kupaly lantern festival, and experiencing the sky lantern release firsthand, I expected it would be insanely crowded as so many visitors would be in the country for the Eurocup, of which Poznan was itself a host city. Yet to my surprise, we were one of only a few foreigners – in fact, the only non-local that we encountered the entire night was a Norwegian medical student that was living in the city.

For a record-breaking event, the lantern festival was surprisingly unadvertised, especially during a time when there were so many visitors to the country and region. Nevertheless, we felt like we had found something even more special because, despite it possibly being Poznan’s most visited time in the last 10 years, we still managed to experience something completely local.

As the sun begins to set, people start gathering in the evening along the banks of the Warta River, where at 10:30pm the sky lanterns are released, displaying one of the most magical sights you will possibly ever see in your life. There are many vendors selling sky lanterns outside the perimeter of the lantern festival for about 5 zloty. Security at the entrance does not allow you to enter with lanterns purchased outside of the festival area, however, it is not impossible to sneak them in.

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There are also activities earlier in the evening (concerts, workshops, games) that build up to the highlight of the night, but we arrived later just in time to release the lanterns.

If you – like me – have always wanted to partake in such festivities, and – like me – don’t have South East Asia in your immediate plans, I invite you to the Midsummer Night Festival in Poznan. You’ll experience something special in a beautiful, affordable country with tremendous history and culture.

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Noc Kupaly Lantern Festival Poznań photos courtesy of Laura Delgado Ranali and Mauricio Benavente

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Laura Delgado Ranalli

Laura Delgado Ranalli

Laura was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, but has lived in cities including Sydney, Toronto, Montreal, and Florence and considers herself a citizen of the world. She currently lives in San José, Costa Rica, where she’s opening a boutique for emerging Latin designers. She is a football (soccer) junkie, loves extreme sports and adventure, and enjoys cooking (or anything related with food, to be honest). She also has a passion for learning about WWII and the Holocaust.

Departful is a full service travel agency for busy professionals seeking unique and transformative custom travel experiences. We create memorable holidays that are 100% tailored to our clients, saving them time and energy by handling all of the little details while providing value by leverage our expertise and network of travel partners. We are based in Toronto.

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Departful is a full service travel agency for busy professionals seeking unique and transformative custom travel experience. We create memorable holidays that are 100% tailored to our clients, saving them time & energy by handling all of the little details while providing value by leverage our expertise and network of travel partners. We are based in Toronto.

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Departful is affiliated with TravelOnly.

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TICO Reg #4316071

Head Office:
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ON, Canada N3R 3V6

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