Saturday, 16 November 2019

Like A Diamond In The Sky?

Don't they look lovely? There is something about lights piercing the darkness which gladdens the heart.
For centuries, these lanterns were popular in China. It is believed they were initially used as part of military strategy - if you needed help, you sent up lanterns at night, so other troops would come to your aid. Then, throughout Asia, they became part of traditional rituals - both to celebrate festivals, and also to mark the passing of loved ones.
Then two significant things happened to make these sky lanterns part of the UK scene.
In 2002, following the Bali Bombings, 202 lanterns were released as part of a memorial ceremony - 28 Britons were among the dead. 
Just a few years later, HSBC Bank released a beautifully filmed advert about the Chinese New Year, voiceover by Sir Michael Gambon [aka Dumbledore, Maigret etc]
And many shrewd sales teams started marketing these lanterns in the UK. In 2018, an estimated quarter of a million of these were lit at weddings, parties, funerals and festivals. 
BUT these things are dangerous. Please let's stop being sentimental, and recognise the facts! You are setting light to a candle in a wire and paper frame, which then rises into the sky and drifts away gently into the darkness.
THEN it eventually lands somewhere else...maybe miles away- you have NO CONTROL over that lantern once it has left your hands!

  • It can possibly travel up 30 miles, carried by the winds to who knows where
  • It may drift out to sea, and be mistaken for a distress flare by coastguards or passing boats.
  • It may confuse pilots coming into land, if it is near an airfield
  • It may land somewhere where it sets light to buildings, or crops, or even animals.
  • Its wire frame may get entangled round the legs of animals, or be ingested by them, causing distress, injury, or death.

The whole issue of sky lanterns is being raised as a storyline on The Archers this week. One enraged farmer posted flyers through the doors of Ambridge showing pictures of distressed and dying animals. [I will not do that - if you cannot imagine the horror, then you can look it up elsewhere] But whilst I think Tony Archer's actions were maybe ill-considered, I support his desire for a ban on these things. Our firefighters and farmers have enough else to contend with right now.
Five years ago, the government issued guidance about use of these lanterns. But now the NFU and the RSPCA are backing campaigns to have them banned. Many local councils have actually taken the decision to make it illegal to set off lanterns from Council-owned lands. Check out Countryside OnLine which has more information, and a list of participating councils.
Yes, I do believe this statement. But I think you should keep your candle close, and blow it out when you need to, and dispose of it carefully!
And don't trust the UK's biggest supplier of sky lanterns, just outside Romford, when they say their product is "Safe and easy to use. 100% biodegradable" They may have developed a 'wire-free frame' for their product - but it is still free-flying-fire.


  1. Lighting candles inside paper lanterns during Vesak used to be a tradition in Sri Lanka, when I was growing up. But, our lanterns were strung on strings and hung in the garden. We didn't let them float away. I hope setting lit lanterns to float in the air doesn't happen here! We have enough trouble with wild fires as it is!

    1. I think that many US states have already banned them

  2. Quite agree with you Ang, they are a danger, however pretty

  3. My brother is a greenkeeper on a golf course on the Kent coast. He says they dread New Year's Day when they have to clean these up ☹️

  4. They may be beautiful, but so dangerus. I would never have dared to use them.

  5. Don't know if you know that Norfolk County Council has banned these lanterns and helium ballons for flying.

    1. actually I made a mistake - they are banned from land owned by NCC

    2. That's better than nothing!


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