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Chinese Lantern Festival in Philadelphia is back to celebrate the Year of the Dragon

Chinese Lantern Festival underway in Philadelphia's Franklin Square
Chinese Lantern Festival underway in Philadelphia's Franklin Square 06:53

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The Philadelphia Chinese Lantern Festival is back to celebrate the Year of the Dragon in Franklin Square. Artists, electricians and many others have been hard at work for several weeks setting up and putting the finishing touches on the handmade works of brightly lit art.

The Chinese Lantern Festival is one of the largest celebrations of Chinese New Year. The tradition started around 2,000 years ago in China and involves lighting decorated lanterns on the 15th day of the first lunar month of the Chinese calendar. Now, millions celebrate the festival worldwide including hundreds of thousands in the Philadelphia area.

Jan Carabeo/CBS News Philadelphia

"Artisans from China have been in Franklin Square for over a couple of months building the lanterns," said Amy Needle, President and CEO of Historic Philadelphia. "They are wired, framed, wrapped in silk, and then hand-painted. It's incredible to realize that."

A main feature of the festival is a huge dragon lantern - Needle said it's as long as three school buses. But many other works feature dragons in honor of this year on the Chinese calendar.

"It takes the artists about eight months to make everything here," said Ellen Zhang of Tianyu Arts and Culture. "First, they draw the design out on the ground. Then the wielder will trace the drawing and make it into a 3D sculpture. Electricians come in and put the lights inside, and sometimes also program them to make the lights change colors. And then, we have the fabric layers to put fabric glue on the frame and the artists come in again to put the final touches."

In addition to the lanterns on display, the festival will also feature fountain shows, food, live performances, and more.  

The performances include face-changing, hula-hooping, and chair handstanding.

There will also be drinks available in the Lotus Cocktail Garden operated by Cescaphe. Food vendors will have plenty of traditional Chinese options including Dandan noodles, and other fare like enormous fresh soft pretzels and much more.

"Culture Connections" is a chance for festivalgoers to learn more about the various Chinese cultural experiences on display including photos with a Face Changer performer, a dumpling demonstration, and folk dance lessons. "Culture Connections" will run Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

Chinese Lantern Festival Philly: tickets, hours

During the day, you can access Franklin Square for free and get a look at the lanterns while you mini-golf or just hang out. But they're much better viewed at night, when they can really stand out.

The park closes at 5 p.m. each night and then will reopen for the ticketed portion of the festival, which will run 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. nightly from June 20 to August 18.    

Tickets are available on the Philly Chinese Lantern Festival website. The festival is closed July 4.

Olivia Dunne and Victoria Newsome contributed to this report.

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