Today is Chinese Lantern Festival. We wish all of you a happy Lantern Festival.The Lantern Festival, also called Yuan Xiao Festival, is celebrated on January 15 of Chinese lunar calendar and signals the last day of the lunisolar Chinese New Year celebration. As early as the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 25), it had become a festival of great significance for appreciating the bright full moon, and family reunion.
The first month of the Chinese calendar is called yuan month and in ancient times people called night xiao, therefore the day is called Yuan Xiao Festival in China. The fifteenth day is the first night to see a full moon. According to Chinese tradition, at the very beginning of a new year, when there is a bright full moon hanging in the sky, there should be thousands of colorful lanterns hung out for people to appreciate.
Lantern Festival is the first significant festival after Spring Festival. During the festival lanterns of various shapes and sizes are hung in the streets and children will hold self-made or bought lanterns to stroll with on the streets, extremely excited. And every family gets together and eats Yuan Xiao (a rice ball stuffed with different fillings) at home.
Customs and Activities:
Lantern Festival has a history of over 2,000 years and rich activities are held during Lantern Festival that appeal to people of different ages, including watching lanterns and fireworks, guessing lantern riddles, performing folk dances, and eating Yuan Xiao.
One of the important activities of the event is watching lanterns. During the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), Buddhism flourished in China. So in order to popularize Buddhism, one of the emperors gave an order to light lanterns in the imperial palace to worship and show respect for Buddha on the 15th day of the first lunar month. During the Tang (618 – 907), Song (960 – 1279), Ming (1368 – 1644) and Qing (1644 – 1911) dynasties, lighting lanterns became a tradition for Chinese people.
Today, when the Lantern Festival comes, red lanterns can be seen in the street, in each house, and store. In the parks, lanterns of various shapes and types attract countless visitors. Visitors marvel that various lanterns so vividly demonstrate traditional Chinese folklore.
Guessing Lantern Riddles
Beginning from the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279), guessing lantern riddles is regarded as an indispensable part of the Lantern Festival. The lantern exhibition organizers write all kinds of riddles on pieces of paper, and paste them on colorful lanterns to let visitors guess. If one has an answer to a riddle, he can pull the paper from the lantern to let organizers verify the answer. Gifts are presented to the people who get the right answers.
Because this intellectual activity is exciting, people from all walks of life enjoy it.
Folk Dances: Lion Dance and Walking on Stilts
Derived from the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280), the lion dance is an excellent traditional art that adds infinite fun to any celebration including the Lantern Festival. Two performing types have formed during its long development. In north China, the lion dance focuses on skills, and in the south the lion dance pays more attention to the animal resemblance. One actor manipulates a small lion made of quilts resembling a real one, and with two persons acting like a big lion, one manages the head part and the other, the rest. Under the guidance of a director, the lions sometimes jump, leap, and do difficult acts such as walking on stilts.
Because the acting is always amusing, spectators enjoy it very much. According to ancient custom, the lion is a symbol of boldness and strength that can protect people, so by performing the lion dance, everyone prays for an auspicious and happy life.
Walking on stilts, another folk art, traces its origins to the Spring and Autumn period (770BC – 476BC). Performers not only walk on stilts by binding them to their feet, but also do some breathtakingly difficult moves. As actors impersonate different characters like monks, clowns, and fishermen and perform vivid and humorous acts, the art amuses many people.
Eating Yuan Xiao
Yuan Xiao, also called tang Yuan, is a dumpling ball made of sticky rice flour stuffed with different fillings. Eating Yuan Xiao has become an essential part of the festival. The methods for making Yuan Xiao differ by region and fillings include sugar, rose petals, sesame, sweetened bean paste, and jujube paste. Some do not have fillings. Because tang Yuan can be boiled, fried or steamed, and each has a unique taste, it is very popular. Yuan Xiao is round in shape so it is endowed with the meaning of reunion, harmony and happiness. During the night of the festival, family members sit together to taste Yuan Xiao and appreciate the full moon.
As time goes by, the Lantern Festival has enjoyed more and more celebrating activities. Some places even add traditional folk-custom performances such as playing dragon lantern, Lion Dancing, stilting, striking land boat, doing the Yangko, and striking Peace Drum. The Lantern Festival, a traditional Chinese festival which has undergone a history of over 2,000 years, is still very popular both at home and abroad, and any place where Chinese people live will witness a busy occasion on that day.