THE LANTERN FESTIVAL /YUAN XIAO JIE – 元宵节/元宵節
Is a Chinese festival celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunisolar Chinese calendar. Usually falling in February or early March on the Gregorian calendar, it marks the final day of the traditional Chinese New Year celebrations.As early as the Western Han Dynasty (206 BCE-CE 25), it had become a festival with great significance.During the Lantern Festival, children go out at night to temples carrying paper lanterns and solve riddles on the lanterns (simplified Chinese: 猜灯谜; traditional Chinese: 猜燈謎; pinyin: cāidēngmí; Jyutping: caai1 dang1 mai4).
In ancient times, the lanterns were fairly simple, and only the emperor and noblemen had large ornate ones. In modern times, lanterns have been embellished with many complex designs. For example, lanterns are now often made in the shape of animals. The lanterns can symbolize the people letting go of their past selves and getting new ones, which they will let go of the next year. The lanterns are almost always red to symbolize good fortune.
The festival acts as an Uposatha day on the Chinese calendar. In Hong Kong, Taiwan, and among Chinese communities in South East Asia, it has become identified as the Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day. It should not to be confused with the Mid-Autumn Festival; which is sometimes also known as the “Lantern Festival” in locations such as Singapore and Malaysia. The Lantern Festival has also become popular in Western countries, especially in cities with a large Chinese community. In London, the Magical Lantern Festival is held annually.
In the early days, young people were chaperoned in the streets in hopes of finding love. Matchmakers acted busily in hopes of pairing couples. The brightest lanterns were symbolic of good luck and hope. As time has passed, the festival no longer has such implications in most of China, but it is still commercialized as the Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day in Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
Eaten during the Lantern Festival, tangyuan ” (Rice ball) is a glutinous rice ball typically filled with sweet red bean paste, sesame paste, or peanut butter.The Chinese people believe the round shape of the balls, and the bowls in which they are served symbolize family togetherness, and that eating tangyuan may bring the family happiness and good luck in the new year.