Happy the Chinese Lantern Festival!

Falling on the 15th day of the first month of the Lunar Year, the Lantern Festival takes place under a full moon, and marks the end of Chinese New Year - Spring Festival festivities. So this day for Chinese people has special significance, guess riddles, eating rice glue balls and viewing lantern lights to become the main theme of the festival in China.

Legend of the Lantern Festival's Origin

The Lantern Festival dates back to shrouded legends of the Han Dynasty over 2000 years ago.

In one such legend, the Jade Emperor in Heaven was so angered at a town for killing his favorite goose, that he decided to destroy it with a storm of fire. However, a good-hearted fairy heard of this act of vengeance, and warned the people of the town to light lanterns throughout the town on the appointed day. The townsfolk did as they were told, and from the Heavens, it looked as if the village was ablaze. Satisfied that his goose had already been avenged, the Jade Emperor decided not to destroy the town. From that day on, people celebrated the anniversary of their deliverance by carried lanterns of different shapes and colors through the streets on the first full moon of the year, providing a spectacular backdrop for lion dances, dragon dances, and fireworks.

The Modern Lantern Festival in China

While the Lantern Festival has changed very little over the last two millennia, technological advances have made the celebration moreand more complex and visually stimulating. Indeed, the festival as celebrated in some places (such as Taipei, Taiwan) can put even the most garish American Christmas decorations to shame. They often sport unique displays of light that leave the viewer in awe.

Master craftsman will construct multicolored paper lanterns in the likeness of butterflies, dragons, birds, dragonflies, and many other animals; these accentuate the more common, red, spherical lanterns. Brilliantly-lit floats and mechanically driven light displays draw the attention of the young and old alike. Sometimes, entire streets are blocked off, with lanterns mounted above and to the sides, creating a hallway of lamps. Some cities in North China even make lanterns from blocks of ice! And just as in days gone by, the billion-watt background sets the scene for dragon and lion dances, parades, and other festivities.

One local Chinese woman said “Here in China, no matter how far away from our homes we are, during the Spring Festival we make it a point to travel to be reunited with our family members again. The Lantern Festival is one of the most significant holidays in our culture here in China. The lantern is something unique and most representative of our Chinese culture."

The Lantern Festival has remained a Chinese tradition, kindled over the centuries by China's affection for elegant beauty and detail.

Lantern Festival Custom I: "Guess Lantern Riddles"

"Guess lantern riddles" is also know as "playing riddles", it is an activity increased after the Lantern Festival and initially appeared in the Lin’an, the capital of Southern Song Dynasty. At the beginning, there were independent investigators who wrote riddles on scrips and pasted them on resplendent lanterns with bright colors to attract viewers to guess, as riddles are very interesting and the same time it can edify people’s wisdoms, so this custom was welcomed by people in all sectors of the society and spreading wider and wider.

"During the Lantern Festival, there'll be really huge lanterns and also a really big tree that's hung and decorated with a lot of lantern riddles. One wins a prize when he can answer the riddle correctly."

Lantern Festival Custom II: Eating "Yuan Xiao"

In folk, eating “Yuan Xiao” (a kind of rice glue ball) is a custom with long history, “Yuan Xiao” is made of glutinous rice, with or without stuffing, filling with red bean paste, sugar, hawthorn, all kinds of fruits and nuts, when eating after cooked, fried, steamed as well as fried. At first, people called this kind of food "floating dumplings", later called "Tang Tuan" or "Tang Yuan", because the pronunciation of these names are very close to “Tuan Yuan”, which means "reunion" in Chinese, so they also symbolizes the whole family’s unity, happiness and harmony, people also take it to memorize their family members who has died, and the same time express their fine wishes for a better life in the future.

"The Yuanxiao Festival involves the whole process of eating these sweet rice dumplings. From the making of these balls, to cooking them, to enjoying them together as a family, we can really enjoy the warmth of our families and soak in the atmosphere of this joyous occasion."A Chinese woman said.

Lantern Festival Custom III: "Walking Sickness"

In China, some place on the Lantern Festival there is a custom of "walking sickness", also known as the "roasting sickness ", "dispersing sickness ", most of the participants are women, they go hand in hand or go against walls, or pass over bridgse, go outside, with purposes to drive illness and disperse disasters.

Over time, activities of the Lantern Festival in China become more and more varied, in my places there added many traditional festival performances such as playing dragon lanterns, playing the lion, walking on stilt, rowing boats, do the yangko dance, playing drums and so on. The traditional festival in China has a long history more than two thousands years, it is not only popular on both sides of the Taiwan straits, people ever in overseas Chinese gathering area also celebrated this traditional festival very ceremoniously each year..

At last, the author here wish all my friends in home or abroad "Happy the Lantern Festival and a better life and future!"

* Original address of this China gift post: China Gift and Fine Arts & Crafts


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To all my friends here,

Dear, wish you all happy today and happy every day, and wish you All shall be well, Jack shall have Jill.

* Original address of this China gift post: China Gift and Fine Arts & Crafts