Flying Chinese lanterns mean different things to different people.
Legend says that the lanterns were used in Taiwan when towns were attacked by bandits during the Chinese New Year. Local residents would hide in the mountains until they saw the lanterns released by village watchmen. Their sight meant "it was alright to return home."
Some people consider flying lanterns to be good luck - a symbol of their problems and worries floating away. A red lantern symbolizes celebration, the orange represents wealth, the white stands for health, and the pink ones symbolize love and friendship.
Other people consider the modern flying Chinese lantern as a carrier of people’s prayers. Before releasing them to the sky, people write down their wishes, hopes and dreams on the lantern as a way of delivering the messages to heaven.
For me, the flying lantern embodies hope. I hold it gently while it fills with air and then, when it is able to ascend on its own power, I let go. It's the darndest thing - when that lantern rises, I feel my own heart rise. It happened the first time I saw it and has happened every time since. I feel a crazy kinship to that floating ballon. It breaks free of earth like a transcending pilgrim and heads off. To where? Who knows. But somehow, watching that glowing light rise until it disappears makes me feel a little closer to heaven than to earth.