Lantern Festival: final fling for Lunar New Year celebration

The Lantern Festival, marked on the fifteenth day of Zheng Yue, or the first lunar month, is traditionally considered as the final day of the Spring Festival. An old Chinese saying goes “it is not until the fifteenth day of the Zheng Yue that the Lunar New Year comes to an end.”

The origins of the festival lie in the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC – 25 AD), when Emperor Han Wu settled the date to honor the Taiyi God, which is considered god of the universe in Chinese Taoism. Even though the flavors of the traditional holidays have been much diluted in the modern world, the Chinese people never give up the essential traditions to enjoy one last fling of the Lunar New Year.

It's all about lanterns

Preparation for lantern fairs usually begin days before the Lantern Festival across China, since displaying lanterns is one of the most important rituals. Nowadays, lanterns are made in a variety of colors and forms, with the auspicious Chinese elements such as zodiac signs, lotus, dragons and phoenix favored. During the evening, with all the bulbs turned on, the lantern fairs look as bright as the daytime.

Besides walking through the dazzling forest of lanterns and enjoying the festival atmosphere, the Chinese people have also added fun to the event with lantern riddles. Solving riddles pasted on the lanterns is both challenging and entertaining. Here are some easy ones to try:

Moon and poetry, sharing the lanterns' radiance

For the ancient Chinese, the lanterns shining during the festival have but one rival to their radiance – the moon. The two illuminants have inspired numerous poets and scholars to write verse and prose during China's history.

As the poems have been passed on through generations, the moon and the lanterns have become two inseparable themes during the Lantern Festival. A poem by Ouyang Xiu, a poet of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), may give a glimpse of how the two items have cast light on Chinese culture.

Tangyuan or Yuanxiao, Adored dessert of the festival

When talking about traditional Chinese holidays, one eternal topic is Chinese dishes. Rice balls, either in the form of Yuanxiao or Tangyuan, are a must for the Chinese people during the Lantern Festival.

There is a longstanding debate between the northern and southern areas of China about the correct Chinese name of the rice ball. In the north, people call the food Yuanxiao, while it is known as Tangyuan in the south.

But just like “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” so does the rice ball. Whatever name it takes, with sugar, sesame, and some other stuffing, the nice flavor of the desert never changes.

After the final night filled with festive signs such as colorful decorations, fireworks, feasts and gatherings, the annual Spring Festival celebration finally drops its curtains. It is always a sad thing to bid farewell to the holidays and families, however, it is time to collect ourselves for the coming new year.

(From: CGTV, Editor: Hautec)