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MID-AUTUMN FESTIVAL: Adults go for the mooncakes, but battery-operated lanterns that have popular characters such as superheroes riding vehicles are a hit with the children
EVERY year, children who love playing with colourful lanterns look forward to the Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the eight month in the Chinese lunar calendar, which is Sept 30 this year.
The celebration also has families eating mooncakes of various flavours.
Lantern trader Jayce Lim Lay Chin, 48, who operates her Hewson Sdn Bhd shop in Jalan 1/12, Petaling Jaya Old Town, said battery-operated lanterns with cartoon characters on vehicles are among the latest hits.
They are selling for at least RM14 each.
"There is Ultraman on wheels, Doraemon riding a car, and mobile honey bees and dragons," said Lim.
She said paper lanterns of Disney cartoons are also on the market. These lanterns are priced from RM5.90 to RM12.90.
Kok Kuan Yong from Lian Hin Enterprise said children look for popular characters, especially superheroes.
"Angry Bird is still popular besides other cartoon characters such as Ben 10," he said.
He said some of the lanterns can be quite noisy, but they nevertheless serve as good educational toys for toddlers.
"Should there be a demand for local cartoon characters such as Upin and Ipin, they can be manufactured too," he said.
At his shop there were several versions of dragon lanterns, from the traditional transparent ones (from RM4 to RM10) to the mobile ones (from RM15).
The dragon is said to bring good luck in Chinese culture.
Kok, who is also Section 1 Residents' Association chairman, said that the neighbourhood will hold a a "lantern walk" for children to parade their lanterns during the festival.
A Petaling Jaya City Council employee, Mohd Iezwan Fahmy, 24, said he is not familiar with the traditions of the lantern festival.
"Newbies can relate to something they know to learn about the custom.
"My brother watches Ben 10 so he can relate to Ben 10 lanterns when he sees them," said Iezwan .
SJK (C) Chen Moh Petaling Jaya pupil, Anson Tan Chun Hui, 10, wants to have a big dragon lantern this year.
"I like transparent lanterns because they are shiny. Last year, I played with Spiderman and Nemo lanterns," he said.
He said his school also initiated a project to make lanterns from recycled baskets. Children would make them as homework projects that were completed in school.
Lantern-making was a time for mother, Sophia Teh, 40, and her children, Ng Bei Xuan, 10, and Edwin Ng, 6, to bond.
"We squeezed out pulp from pomelo fruits and made holes on their skins. They gave out sweet aromas when candles are lighted in them," said Teh.
Teh said toddlers love to play with battery lanterns. "But they need need adult supervision because of the candles in the lanterns.
"However, my daughter still prefers candle-lit lanterns over battery-operated ones," she said.
Streets scoured Petaling Street to find what is available on the market.
At Yi Xin Craft & Gifts Sdn Bhd, attractive inflatable lanterns are sold (from RM12).
Shop owner Emily Lee, 32, said Angry Bird battery-operated lanterns are still a favourite this year.
"Besides Angry Birds, famous cartoon characters such as Tom & Jerry are being sold," she said.
She said her lanterns also come with nursery rhyme music.
A lantern and toy seller, Morgan Choong, 54, wants to continue the family tradition after inheriting the business from his father, Siew Khow Choong, 78.
The owner of Wing Yick Toys Enterprise is enjoying brisk business with up to 10,000 lanterns already sold.
"Children fancy animal motifs, be they real or fantasy characters such as fish, elephants or unicorns," he said.
He said locally made paper lanterns from Perak use watercolours to paint the paper lanterns, while those imported from China use stickers for this purpose.
"Customers can now buy semi-transparent lanterns for more vibrant lights, or sticker covered lanterns for interesting patterns," he said.
He suggested the use of adhesive glue instead of starch for lantern-making to prevent rats and roaches from destroying them.
Choong said Malaysians should make lanterns of our wildlife such as Sumatran tigers.
A mother, Law Poo Yoke, 32, said her son, Yap Jia Hong, 4, likes to play with animal-shaped lanterns.
An International Medical University student, Nurul Akmar Anwar, 22, said her university friends made Ferris wheel-shaped lanterns that turn as the wind blows them.
She was fascinated by the creativity and craftsmanship of those who had "dressed" the lanterns with colourful clothes and ribbons.
"I used to play pink square lanterns with school friends in Taiping when I was 9," she said.
Delakan Ratha Krisnak, 28, a University Malaya alumni, was taught by friends from the Chinese Community Club of his residential college on the proper way to handle lanterns.
"I could not walk very fast with a lantern -- it will catch fire because of the candle in it," he said.
He said a walkway overlooking a lake was decorated with lanterns for the pre-festival at the college.
"It was a memorable event. We can order mooncakes to be delivered to our friends and were entertained by Chinese cultural shows," he said.