The banquet we would all love to attend: The Feast of Peaches hosted by Xi Wang Mu. The menu is the main attraction because Xi Wang Mu, the Queen of the West, offers her guests peaches of immortality.
This feast is the theme of the 20th annual Magic of Lanterns display at the Montréal Botanical Garden. During the event, 700 traditional and 200 themed lanterns cast shimmering light throughout the Chinese Garden and the Japanese Garden. While designed in Canada, these are crafted in Shanghai, where lanterns have been part of festivities since the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.).
Wanting to find out more about the availability of those luscious-sounding peaches, I turned to the Internet. There are numerous academically styled accounts of the Celestial Queen’s crop, but I prefer the less reverent one found on GodChecker:
Xi-Wangmu started off at the bottom. She was a plague-carrying tiger spirit at the time of the Han Dynasty and caused much trouble.
But after offering the Emperor a bowl of magic peaches, her career really took off. Daoism came along and elevated her to Top Goddess. She married Mu-Gong, otherwise known as Mr. Yang, and became Mrs. Yin, the personification of Femininity.
Taking up residence in paradise, she began to be associated with immortality…. Xi-Wangmu now grows magic peach trees in her Heavenly Peach Garden. The most common of these take a thousand years to blossom — but the Golden Peaches of Immortality only ripen once in nine thousand years.
Eating one of Xi-Wangmu’s peaches bestows immediate long life and a host of other benefits. The Gods like them so much that Peach Banquets are a regular occurrence in Heaven.
From the number of posts I have made, one would assume we spent our entire two-week vacation at the Botanical Garden. Unfortunately, however, we were not present in the evening when the lantern lights were not forced to compete with the sun. But here is one of numerous videos found online:
And, alas, we were served none of the Queen’s magical peaches. It was like visiting the Garden of Eden after the apple was bitten, thanks to that trickster, the Monkey King. According to GodChecker:
The last Peach Banquet was cancelled after Monkey ate all the peaches, but bookings are currently being taken for the next one in 5078 A.D.
I hope the Monkey King’s invitation gets lost.
Update Added on October 17: Totally missed the news that this year’s Dallas State Fair featured a Chinese Lantern Festival. The home of Big Tex actually squeezed in more themed lanterns than Montréal.
Everything has to be bigger in the big-hair part of Texas, and the Dallas lanterns go one step farther with animation and blinking LEDs.
What else can you expect from the fried food fanatical land where awards are lavished upon such concoctions as fried bacon cinnamon rolls?
But even taken this far over the top, the lanterns look magical.
Update on October 20: I sure hope my mention of him is not what made Big Tex’s ears burn. Alas, Big Tex met the same fate as all the food in the booths around him. Fried.