In China, New Year celebrations stretch over two weeks. For many people, festivities end with the Lantern Festival. So, what makes the Lantern Festival so special?
The Lantern Festival falls on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar, that is the 15th calendar day following Chinese New Year. On that day, families around China get together and engage in public and traditional activities.
The most famous feature of the Lantern Festival is – not surprisingly – the lanterns. During the festival, Chinese people will light paper lanterns marked with riddles to be solved by the children in exchange for gifts. All kinds of lanterns lighten up the night sky on that day: big lanterns are paraded around on floats, small lanterns are carried by kids or hung outside houses, and other lanterns are even sent flying up in the sky. The tradition of lighting lanterns has several explanations, stemming from various religious beliefs. Some say that it has its roots in Buddhism, while others associate it with the birthday celebration of the Taoist god Taiguan, who represents good fortune. Finally, there are those who think that lighting lanterns is a way to worship Taiyi, the God of Heaven. No matter the origin, the Lantern Festival is a time to enjoy the sight of bright lanterns and witty Chinese riddles!
There are also regional traditions associated with the Lantern Festival. Fireworks are popular in some regions, while others will see street performances such as lion and dragon dances.
Interestingly, the Lantern Festival is also known as “Chinese Valentine’s Day”. It is a time for young people to go out and socialize – couples to celebrate their love and singles to seek their better-half.
Finally, one of the best things about the Lantern Festival is its traditional delicacy, Yuanxiao (or Tangyuan), a small sweet dumpling made of glutinous rice flour. One more reason to enjoy this exciting festival!
By – Nancy