5 traditional ways to celebrate the Lantern Festival this year

  • 4 Mins Read
  • Wellbeing
  • Written by: Jillian Lai Mei Siew
celebrate the lantern festival

If you are in or around China in February, you are in for a treat-both for your eyes and your stomach! This is the time when the festivities of Chinese New Year are in full swing. You get to witness the beauty and the history of China through its traditions, decorations, art forms, and delicacies. These festivities go on for around 2 weeks and are filled with exciting activities you can watch or participate in.

About a fortnight after the Chinese New Year comes another lively celebration called the Chinese Lantern Festival. Also known as Yuan Xiao Jie, the Lantern Festival marks the end of the celebration of the Chinese New Year. This year, it falls on 15th February 2022. As you might have guessed from its name, people celebrate this holiday by enjoying the vibrant lantern displays with their families and friends.

What is the significance of the Lantern Festival?

As mentioned earlier, the Lantern Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the first month of the Lunar year. It marks the first full moon of the new lunar year and the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations. It is believed that after the Lantern Festival, the Chinese New Year taboos are no longer looming over you. Most people resume working or studying and remove decorations after the lantern festival. The lanterns are symbolic of letting go of the past and promoting reconciliation and peace.

5 things to do during the Lantern Festival

Lighting and watching the lanterns

Well, the name says it all. Chinese lanterns are symbols of good luck or an announcement of good news. These lanterns were previously made bamboo frames, with thin, oiled paper wrapped around them. Today, these lanterns are made from thin metal frames and paper. These lanterns are even decorated with different characters that represent different phrases to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Every household, restaurant, business place, etc. hang a red lantern outside. These lanterns are even believed to be a source of communicational links between the deceased ancestors.

The decor and lighting of these lanterns illuminate the streets and give them an appearance of a tunnel of light. The Lantern Festival displays are set up with enormous lanterns, often of different colours, and are set up in a way to depict different animals, mythical creatures, or elements of nature. A walk around the streets is truly a delight to the eyes.

The history behind lighting lanterns at the Lantern Festival

The Lantern Festival has been estimated to have started about 2,000 years ago. There are many origin stories behind this tradition of lighting lanterns, however, one of them take the cake in terms of popularity. It is believed that Emperor Hanmingdi, a strong advocate of Buddhism began the custom by ordering all temples, households, etc to be decorated with lanterns on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. This soon came to be a grand festival celebrated now as Yuan Xiao Jie(Lantern festival).

Guessing lantern riddles

Lanterns aren’t decorated just with paper, but with amusing riddles! Before hanging a lantern, the owner writes a riddle on a paper note and pastes it on the lantern. People crowd around to read these riddles. If you guess it right, you can even win a small prize! This tradition was started by scholars and poets ages ago, and still remains an important part of the tradition. So before you set out to see the lanterns on display, make sure you put on your thinking caps!

Eating Tangyuan

Every festival is celebrated with a special delicacy without which it is incomplete. This must-have delicacy prepared during the Lantern festival is Tangyuan. Tangyuan is a preparation made from glutinous rice dumplings filled with red beans, black sesame paste, peanut paste, and more. It is then immersed and boiled in a sweet syrup or dessert soup. Tangyuan is symbolic of family togetherness and reunion.

Watching the fireworks display

Fireworks are an integral part of Chinese festivals and culture. During the celebrations of the Chinese New Year, fireworks displays are a common sight. You can step out with your family and friends and enjoy an evening with the sky lit up with light and colours.

Dragon and lion dances

Folk dances are customary during celebrations. The Chinese folk dance of lion and dragon are extremely popular during the Lantern festival and garner large crowds. The lion is believed to ward off evil and the dragon is a revered symbol and thought to bring good luck.

With this, we wish you a happy Chinese New Year and the celebrations that follow. May the Year of the Tiger bring you good luck and prosperity!

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