It is the first important festival after the Chinese Spring Festival for the Chinese people pushing the Chinese New Year celebration to an exciting climax and marking its end. People watch lanterns, fireworks and various performances, guess lantern riddles and eat Yuanxiao (glutinous rice balls with fillings) to celebrate the day.
The Lantern Festival is also known as the Chinese Valentine's Day in the past. In the old times, young girls were usually not allowed to go out. The festival was a good chance for girls going out in the evening to find love when watching lanterns. And it was also a good day for lovers to meet. But now it has no such meanings in most part of China. While in Hong Kong, it is now commercialized as the Valentine's Day.
Fast Facts about Lantern Festival
|Chinese Name：||元宵节Yuánxiāo Jié|
|Alternative Names:||Shangyuan Festival, Yuan Xiao Festival, Chinese Valentine's Day|
|Date:||Jan.15th (Chinese Lunar Calendar)|
|Festival Type:||Traditional Chinese Festival|
|Countries/Areas to Celebrate:||China and where the Chinese people live|
|Traditions and Customs:||Watching Lanterns, Appreciating the bright full moon, Enjoying the family reunion, Guessing lantern riddles, Watching fireworks, Performing dragon lantern dance, lion dance and walking on stilts|
|Festival Food:||Yuanxiao (or Tangyuan) - glutinous rice balls with different fillings such as sesame, red-bean or peanut butter paste|
|Significance:||The first night to see the full moon in a year; Marking the end of the Chinese New Year celebration|
Date of Lantern Festival
|Year||Date of Lantern Festival|
Origin and History
Another said it is related with a Buddhist legend. According to the legend, the fifteenth day of the first Chinese lunar month was the day that Sakyamuni defeated the demons. So to commemorate the day, lanterns should be lighted. Since the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220AD), the custom has been popular. The Emperor Hanmingdi ordered all the temples and families should light lanterns on the evening of the day. From that time on, it has a custom to light lanterns for the festival.
Time to celebrate the festival and customs differ in different periods. In Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD), people celebrate it for one day. In Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 AD), the day before and after the festival were also the times to celebrate. In Song Dynasty (960 - 1279 AD), people had five days to spend the festival. It lasted from the eighth day of the first lunar month to the seventeenth day in Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644 AD). Lighting lanterns is the main custom during the above times. While, in Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911 AD), although only three days to celebrate, activities like dragon and lion dances, land-boat dance, walking on stilts were added.
Legendary Story about Lantern Festival
On the evening of 15th day, the Jade Emperor saw the village was ablaze and thought the people had been died. So, he didn't order to burn the village. From that time on, people hang lanterns, set fireworks and firecrackers on the 15th day of the first lunar month every year to celebrate the victory.
Traditions and Customs
Like the Spring Festival, on the day of the Lantern Festival, all the members will try to go home for a reunion. In the evening, they usually prepare a sumptuous dinner. Among them, Yuanxiao is an indispensable food symbolizing the unity of the family. They are made of sweet rice flour into sticky glutinous balls with fillings. The common fillings are sesame, red-bean and peanut butter paste. In Southern China, it is called Tang Yuan.
Lanterns in various sizes and shapes will be hung on everywhere including households, shopping malls and streets. Children like to take a small lantern to play outside. In the evening, there are usually lantern shows in most cities adding the festival atmosphere to a great extent. The lanterns are usually in different forms such as animals, flowers, people, buildings and more. The most popular lanterns are those with the zodiac animal of the year (2018 is the Year of the Dog). On the lanterns, there are usually riddles written on a piece of paper. People crowed to guess the riddles and pull them down once have the answers. After checking, if the answer is right, people can get a small gift as a prize.
There are usually performances like dragon and lion dancing, stilt-walking and more in the street to celebrate the festival. On the evening, people will set firecrackers and government usually has fireworks shows. Many people may choose to stay at home to watch the Lantern Festival evening party broadcast on TV.
More Traditional Chinese Festivals:
Chinese Spring Festival Laba Festival Dragon Heads-raising Day Qingming Festival Ghost Festival Double Seventh Festival Dragon Boat Festival Mid-Autumn Festival The Double Ninth Festival Winter Solstice