The History of the Feast of Lanterns

Feast of Lanterns festivals and celebrations are centuries old and are celebrated all around the world and throughout the US - from NY to Indiana, Ohio, Michigan on to Montana and throughout California.

1960 procession to the beach

No one knows if the Feast of Lanterns festivals were first celebrated hundreds of years ago in Japan or China or somewhere else in the ancient lands of our world, but these festivals of light continue as part of the international and national landscape. This festival is not unique to Pacific Grove.

In 1905, when the Methodists and the Woman's Civic Club of Pacific Grove organized the first Feast of Lanterns festival as the closing ceremony to the annual Chautauqua Assembly, their Japanese and Chinese neighbors were invited and joined in the celebration. They carried lanterns, brought fish to add to the feast, lit their boats as they floated off the cove, and enjoyed the amazing display of fireworks.

It wasn’t until December of 1957 that the Feast of Lanterns was revived as part of the city’s winter activities. When the Feast of Lanterns was revived in 1958, Mayor Shropshire asked City Councilman Clyde Dyke to chair the revival of the Feast of Lanterns. Clyde, assisted by his wife, Elmarie and the Mayor’s wife, Helen, orchestrated the Feast of Lanterns as we know it today; with its Royal Court, elegant costumes, teas, fashion shows, and the Legend of the Blue Willow enacted by the Royal Court and their families. The use and display of lighted lanterns, the boat parade that moves across the bay, a variety of family entertainment, and fireworks over the cove at the close the Festival were all introduced with the original Feast of Lanterns in 1905.

As it was in 1905, and revived in 1958, and continues today, there is an opportunity to enjoy music and dancing from around the world, view exhibits and enjoy the locals literary efforts, meet your neighbors, and have fun in the fresh air, sunshine, and cool fog of Pacific Grove.