The Lantern Festival, which takes place on the 15th of February, marks the end of the Chinese New Year break.

The Chinese New Year can span up to 16 days, with seven of those days being official holidays. The Lantern Festival, which takes place on the 15th day of the first Chinese lunar month (in 2022, it was on February 15), brings the celebrations to a close.

But what are the roots of the Lantern Festival, and how is it normally celebrated?

Everything you need to know about it is right here.

What is the Lantern Festival?

The celebration has taken on numerous meanings over the years. It features old spiritual traditions as well as family reunions, socialising, and freedom. Families usually get together on New Year’s Eve and visit in-laws on the second day of the year. On the 5th, shops and companies reopen, and the festivities gradually fade away. Everyone comes to the streets on the 15th day of the new year, the Lantern Festival, to rejoice and light lanterns.

Some consider the celebration to be the “real” Chinese Valentine’s Day, as opposed to the more conventional Qixi. That’s because, in Ancient China, when women were frequently forbidden from leaving the house, the Lantern Festival provided them with the opportunity to participate in rituals while also socialising romantically with men.

Despite its significance, the Lantern Festival is not a national holiday, hence no days off are available to commemorate it.

 

What are the origins of the festival?

The Lantern Festival is supposed to have begun more than 2000 years ago during the Han Dynasty. Buddhism was quite prevalent in China at the time. Hearing that monks would burn candles for the Buddha on the 15th day of the first lunar month, Emperor Ming ordered the imperial palace and temples to do so, as well as civilians to hang lanterns. Throughout the dynasties that followed, Chinese people continued to light lanterns as a custom.

What is the lantern lighting tradition?

Lanterns have become the festival’s symbol, and red lanterns can now be seen hanging throughout the streets. They’re also prevalent in homes and shops, and they frequently portray traditional Chinese folklore and riddles. From little, palm-sized globes to massive parade floats, innumerable varieties of lanterns have been developed throughout history.

The Kongming lantern, which depicts hope, success, and happiness, is a well-known version. Lanterns were traditionally given to newlyweds or couples without children as a way of passing on blessings. Pregnant ladies would also be given a pair of miniature lanterns to wish both mother and child health and safety. Lanterns are burned in certain areas to identify the gender of a future kid based on the form of the ashes.

Are there other traditions?

The Lantern Festival includes a variety of customs and activities, such as lantern lighting, moon-gazing, lion dances, and rice ball eating. Each location has its own set of customs.

Swings are popular in Fengyang, while jng xng l hu performances, in which people dance while holding fans and parasols to the beat of drums, are popular throughout Hebei province.

The event’s signature dish is called yuan xiao, which is also the original Chinese name for the holiday. It’s one of numerous rice dumpling-based Chinese New Year treats with sweet fillings of syrup, red bean paste, and black sesame paste. They can be steamed or fried, but during the celebration, they are customarily boiled and served in hot water. 

The Lantern Festival provides the people of China to get free from their daily activities and relax for some time with the festivities and their loved ones. 

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