The Lantern Festival

Time of Lantern Festival

Lantern Festival is one of the most traditional festivals in China celebrated on the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese lunar year. It is a ‘festival within a festival' that is considered as the end of Spring Festival (Chinese New Year).


History of Lantern Festival 

According to the historical records, the festival began to prevail during the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C. - 24 A .D.) and flourished during the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 A .D.) and Song Dynasty (960 - 1279 A .D.). Its present name is in fact derived from the Tang Dynasty custom of hanging out lanterns on the night of the festival. Lantern can break darkness, illuminate the land as well as bring brightness and hope to people. So the Lantern Festival has been observed by people for more than 1,000 years and celebrated all over the country.


What to Do in Lantern Festival

On the night of the festival, temples and businesses are decorated with colorful lanterns made of paper, gauze and glass, painting with legendary figures, landscapes as well as the flowers and birds. There are also the performances of drums and dragon dance in the street and lanes. On the day, people will eat sweet round dumplings made of glutinous rice flour filled with various kinds of fillings. The snack is called Yuanxiao in Chinese, so the festival is also named the Yuanxiao Festival.

• Eat Yuanxiao
On the day, people will eat sweet round dumplings made of glutinous rice flour filled with various kinds of fillings. The snack is called Yuanxiao in Chinese, so the festival is also named the Yuanxiao Festival.


Yuanxiao

• Guess Lantern Riddles
Guess is a kind of amusing activities in folk. Being passed down from ancient time, guessing lantern riddles is a special activity in lantern festival. At first, Chinese people hang lanterns and fire firecrackers to celebrate the lantern festival, then somebody pastes riddles on the lanterns to let people guess, gradually, it becomes a custom of lantern festival. Guessing lantern riddles not only can inspire wisdom, but can add more atmospheres to the festival.

• Enjoy Beautiful Lanterns
At the night of the festival, temples and parks are decorated with colorful lanterns made of paper, gauze and glass, painting with legendary figures, landscapes as well as the flowers and birds. After eating dinner, Chinese people like to walk around park to enjoy beautiful lanterns.


 Guessing Lantern Riddle

• Play Dragon Dance
In southern China, especially Canton and Guangxi, there are also some dragon dance performance in the street and lanes. Where there is a dragon dance, where the people immerse in joyous atmospheres.


Celebration in Different Ways

In the old days, the way people celebrated the festival varied from place to place.

In the northern China, people made lanterns of ice in shapes of human figures, buildings and fruits with a candle light in them. When all the candles were lit, the lanterns show became a marvelous sight.
 
In some cities of south with a river flowing through, people made paper boats, by which the lanterns are floating.
 
In Beijing City, many worshipers would go to the White Cloud Temple, where they burn the scents, offer up prayers and sacrifices as well as donate money, wishing to expel bad luck and disaster in the coming year. A trade market was held in the capital between the eighth and sixteenth days. People could buy lanterns, flowers, and many other things. Beijing’s Lantern Fair was usually held at the north end of Wangfujing Street.
 
In Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, a lantern was lit in the kitchen from the thirteenth until and eighteenth day. The first night was called ‘trying the lantern', and the last night ‘extinguishing the lantern'.
 
At present, most lantern festivals are held in public parks in cities and towns. People will have the riddles written on the lanterns. It will be the great fun to have a guess. The lanterns are more varied and colorful.

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