The time of this festival
The Lantern Festival is one of the most traditional festivals. Falling on the 15th day of the first Lunar Calendar month, it is a ‘festival within a festival’, that considered as the end of Spring Festival.
The history of this festival
According to the historical records, the festival began to prevail during the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C.- 24 A .D.) and flourished during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 A .D.) and Song Dynasty (960 – 1279 A .D.). Its present name is in fact derived from the Tang Dynasty custom of hanging out lanterns on the night of the festival. Lantern can break darkness, illuminate the land as well as bring brightness and hope to people. So the Lantern Festival has been observed by people for more than 1,000 years and celebrated all over the country.
What to do on the night of Lantern Festival
On the night of the festival, temples and businesses are decorated with colorful lanterns made of paper, gauze and glass, painting with legendary figures, landscapes as well as the flowers and birds. There are also the performances of drums and dragon dance in the street and lanes. On the day, people will eat sweet round dumplings made of glutinous rice flour filled with various kinds of fillings. The snack is called Yuanxiao in Chinese, so the festival is also named the Yuanxiao Festival.
Celebration in different ways
In the northern China, people made lanterns of ice in shapes of human figures, buildings and fruits with a candle light in them. When all the candles were lit, the lanterns show became a marvelous sight.
In some cities of south with a river flowing through, people made paper boats, by which the lanterns are floating.
In Beijing City, many worshipers would go to the White Cloud Temple, where they burn the scents, offer up prayers and sacrifices as well as donate money, wishing to expel bad luck and disaster in the coming year. A trade market was held in the capital between the eighth and sixteenth days. People could buy lanterns, flowers, and many other things. Beijing’s Lantern Fair was usually held at the north end of Wangfujing Street.
In Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, a lantern was lit in the kitchen from the thirteenth until and eighteenth day. The first night was called ‘trying the lantern’, and the last night ‘extinguishing the lantern’.
At present, most lantern festivals are held in public parks in cities and towns. People will have the riddles written on the lanterns. It will be the great fun to have a guess. The lanterns are more varied and colorful.