After a three-year absence, Auckland’s iconic Lantern Festival is set to return in an all-new venue at the Manukau Sports Bowl next month.

The Auckland Lantern Festival is New Zealand’s largest cultural festival, and this year more than 100,000 Aucklanders and visitors are expected to attend.

Taking place over four days from 2 - 5 February, over 800 handmade lanterns will illuminate the trees and fields of the Manukau Sports Bowl to celebrate Chinese New Year. Last held at the Auckland Domain in 2019, the move to Auckland’s south will provide the space and facilities for all the traditional Lantern Festival favourites, alongside new highlights.

To pay tribute to the Year of the Rabbit – traditionally a year of hope – a new rabbit lantern will be on display. Previously unseen lanterns representing the zodiac animals from the last three years will also be featured alongside the rabbit.

Vector Lights – the partnership between Vector, Auckland Council and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency - will present a Year of the Rabbit-inspired animation show on the Auckland Harbour Bridge between 8pm and midnight from 1 – 3 February.

Tātaki Auckland Unlimited Head of Major Events, Chris Simpson, says this is one of the highly anticipated returns following three years of cancellations.

“The Auckland Lantern Festival is one of the most popular events in the summer calendar, with over twenty years of history behind it. We’re thrilled to be able to celebrate with Aucklanders and visitors once again and bring back a beloved cultural touchstone that we know has been missed.”

“The festival has something for everyone – beautiful cultural displays, a diverse range of food, cultural performances and traditions, and a welcoming atmosphere. It really demonstrates what makes Tāmaki Makaurau such a vibrant region.”

Favourites returning in 2023:  

  • More than 800 handmade Chinese lanterns will be on display. Visitors can wander through avenues of illuminated lanterns and enjoy the themed settings that tell the stories of the lanterns and Chinese culture.
  • 40 street stalls selling delicious Chinese and Asian food, and 22 retail stalls including traditional and contemporary crafts and gifts.
  • Local artisans will demonstrate traditional Chinese calligraphy, lantern making, embroidery, fan making, traditional Chinese fortune telling for the year ahead, and visitors can solve Chinese riddles.
  • A spectacular fireworks display around 10pm on Sunday, to close out the festival.

What’s new in 2023:

  • A new, spacious location with ample green space for displaying lanterns, within walking distance of Auckland bus and train connections.
  • All performers on the festival’s main stage this year are local acts, including Chinese folk music and dance, K-pop, opera, and martial arts displays.
  • The full-festival experience on all four nights of the festival, with stallholders, performances, food, and amusements onsite on Thursday night for the first time.
  • Four previously unseen zodiac lanterns commissioned especially for the Auckland Lantern Festival – 2023’s Year of the Rabbit, 2022’s Year of the Tiger, 2021’s Year of the Ox, and 2020’s Year of the Rat.