The Lantern Festival

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The Lantern Festival is a very significant celebration for Chinese people. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month and it also marks the end of the Chinese Spring Festival.

The origin of the Lantern Festival

During the Han Dynasty, Buddhism was rapidly spreading. In those days Buddhist monks were worshipping Buddha, on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month, by watching Buddha’s cremated remains and lighting up lanterns. Seeing this, Emperor Hanmingdi ordered lanterns to be lit up and hanged in the imperial palace and in all the temples every year on that day. Later on this spread out to all the homes, in all the provinces! Fast becoming a huge festival all over China.

Another legend says that one day a beautiful crane was sent down from Heaven by the Jade Emperor. When it landed on the ground some villagers hunted it down and killed it. Furious, because this was his favorite crane, the Jade Emperor decides to send a storm of fire to destroy the village on the 15th lunar day. Hearing about this, the villagers, tried to find a way to prepare and survive this attack, they decide to hang red lanterns around the houses, set bonfires on the streets and explode fireworks on the day of attack. This would make it look like the village is already on fire and thus save them. The day came and the Jade Emperor sent his troops down from Heaven to destroy the village, but when they saw the village on fire, the troops returned to Heaven and reported everything to the Emperor, who was satisfied and decided to cancel the attack. Since then, everyone celebrates the 15th lunar day by hanging lanterns and exploding fireworks.

Traditions during the Lantern Festival

One of the most important aspects of the festival are, of course, the lanterns. Today, people decorate their houses with lanterns of different shapes (animals, birds, flowers, fruits, etc), bought or even made by themselves. Also, in some places they play “Guessing the lantern riddle”, where riddles are hanged from each lantern. Whoever knows the answer can take the riddle off, take it to the household owner and get a small prize in exchange.

During day time, you can see performances with dragon lantern dancing, lion dancing, land boat dancing and many more activities. Now we all know Chinese love to eat. So they have a specific dish that they attribute to each festival or celebration and the Lantern Festival is not an exception. With this occasion, people will eat yuan xiao or rice dumplings. These are small dumpling balls made our of glutinous rice flour and filled with rose petals, bean paste, sesame or anything sweet. These sweets are also called tang yuan which in Chinese sounds very similar to tuanyuan which means “reunion”. Therefore Chinese eat this desert in the name of harmony and happiness for the family.

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