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Understanding The Lantern Festival from China

Lantern festival image

The Lantern Festival is a time-honored celebration of joy and prosperity that has been taking place in China for centuries.

This unique festival has a long history and is steeped in symbolism and traditions, all of which have been passed down from generation to generation.

From the beautiful lanterns that light up the night sky to the tantalizing dishes that are prepared for the occasion, the Lantern Festival is a vibrant and exciting event that brings people together in celebration.

In this guide, we will explore the history, symbolism, and traditions associated with the Lantern Festival in order to better understand this ancient celebration.

What is Lantern Festival?

The Lantern Festival is a traditional Chinese festival celebrated on the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese calendar.

It is a traditional Chinese celebration that marks the end of the Lunar New Year.

People celebrate it by lighting lanterns and eating a special type of dumpling.

At the Lantern Festival, children carry paper lanterns and solve riddles written on them.

The lanterns can be simple or very fancy with lots of decorations, like animals.

They are usually red, which means good luck.

Every year, people let go of their old selves and get new ones.

It's also a time to make wishes and have fun with friends and family.

Origin of Lantern Festival

There are several beliefs about the origin of the Lantern Festival.

Here's a quick rundown of some of those beliefs!

Celebrate the passing of winter's darkness

The Lantern Festival is a celebration that has been around since the Han dynasty.

People lit up lanterns to honor a Buddhist monk and to celebrate the winter darkness going away.

It is still celebrated today.

Prayer to the Taiyi God

In ancient China, people believed that the God of Heaven, Taiyi, controlled their destiny.

The emperor held special ceremonies each year to ask Taiyi to bring good weather and health.

Emperor Wu was a powerful ruler long ago in China.

He thought this special event was very important and made it last all night.

Celebrating Tianguan's Birthday

The Lantern Festival is a special celebration that marks the birthday of a special god named Tianguan.

People pray for good fortune and have fun activities to honor Tianguan.

Remembering Ancient Warriors

The Lantern Festival is a special celebration in China that remembers an ancient warrior named Lan Moon.

He was brave and fought against a bad king, but he was killed in the battle.

People celebrate the festival to remember him and his courage.

A story about a dying village

The Lantern Festival is about a village that was going to get destroyed by a storm of fire from the Jade Emperor.

They were saved because they hung red lanterns around their houses, set up bonfires, and exploded firecrackers.

To celebrate, people carry lanterns, explode firecrackers, and set off fireworks.

Maid reunites with family

It celebrates a special legend about a maid named Yuan-Xiao who was able to reunite with her family.

Every year on the fifteenth lunar day,

  • People hang red lanterns
  • Set off fireworks
  • Cook sweet dumplings to worship the God of Fire

This special day also marks the switch of the Chinese Zodiac, so each year a different animal is celebrated.

Lantern Festival history

The Lantern Festival has a long and fascinating history.

It is an ancient Chinese festival that has been celebrated for over 2000 years, and is still celebrated today. 

Here is a brief summary of the history of the Lantern Festival!

Lantern Festival in Ancient China

In Ancient China, Emperor Yang had a special celebration with lanterns that lit up the night and shows to watch.

And people from other countries were invited to come and enjoy it.

Lantern Festival of the Tang Dynasty

People in China during the Tang dynasty celebrated the New Year by lighting up lanterns and displaying them for three days.

Everyone was allowed to stay up late and enjoy the beautiful lights.

People wrote poems to express their happiness.

Lantern Festival in Song Dynasty

During the Song dynasty in China, people celebrated a special festival for five days.

They made special lanterns using colorful glass and jade, and decorated them with pictures from stories.

Lantern Festival in the 15th century

The biggest celebration happened in the 15th century and lasted ten days.

People went to a place in Beijing called Dengshikou to see the lanterns.

During the day, they sold lanterns and at night they lit them up and admired them.

Today's Lantern Festival

At the Lantern Festival, people hang lots of colorful lanterns in the park and watch a big dragon lantern spiral up a tall pole.

People also like to try and guess riddles that tell stories about

  • good luck
  • family
  • harvest
  • love

Kids even carve lanterns out of vegetables like radishes!

What to do in Lantern Festival?

The Lantern Festival is a centuries-old tradition that is celebrated in many cultures around the world, including China, Japan, and Korea.

The festival traditionally marks the end of the Chinese New Year period and is celebrated with a variety of events and festivities.

It is a time of joy and celebration, as people come together to enjoy traditional Chinese food, music, and dance.

Lanterns of all shapes and sizes are lit and set adrift in the night sky.

Here's a brief introduction on what to do on such the Lantern Festival!

Finding love

The Chinese festival of Lantern Festival used to be a time when young people could be chaperoned in the streets to find love, and matchmakers would try to pair them up.

People would carry bright lanterns to bring luck and hope.

Nowadays, this custom is not as common in

  • Mainland China
  • Taiwan
  • Hong Kong

Lantern Festival Food

At the Lantern Festival, Chinese people eat Tangyuan, which are sweet round balls filled with yummy stuff like red bean paste, sesame, and peanut butter, and are boiled, fried or steamed.

They are eaten to bring the family happiness, luck, and harmony in the new year.

Lantern Festival

During festivals, people like to do fun activities like

  • lion dance
  • walking on stilts
  • playing riddle games
  • dragon dance

In the riddle game, someone holds up a lantern with riddles on it and people try to figure out the answer.

If they get it right, they get a special reward!

To learn more about Chinese New Year, including Lantern Festival,

Please read this article.