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Customs of the Lantern Festival

http://www.chinese.cn 15:53, February 14, 2011 Confucius Institute Online

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Customs of the Lantern Festival

Customs of the Lantern Festival

According to the Chinese calendar, the night of January 15th has the first full moon of the New Year and marks the end of the Chinese New Year festivities.

Chinese people traditionally celebrate this occasion with the Lantern Festival in which beautiful lanterns (and nowadays electric lights) of all shapes and sizes are lit, fireworks are set off, lantern riddles are devised and guessed and people eat Yuan Xiao together while appreciating the full moon.

1. Eating Yuan Xiao

Yuan Xiao is food that is synonymous with the Lantern Festival, literally, because "Yuan Xiao" is Chinese for lantern festival. Enjoying Yuan Xiao with family during the lantern festival is an important tradition that symbolizes unity and happiness within the family. The dish itself consists of stuffed dumplings of glutinous rice flour stuffed with all sorts of things like sesame seeds, bean paste, sugar, walnut kernels or jujube powder to name just a few. Yuan Xiao is called Tang Yuan in some parts of China.

2. The Origins of the Lantern festival

In the years of Yongle (58 to 75 A.D) in the Han Dynasty, the Ming Emperor was a strong supporter of Buddhism, which was a newly emerging religion in China at that time. The emperor sent a famous Buddhist monk named Cai Yin on a pilgrimage to India to locate Buddhist scriptures and when he did so successfully, the emperor ordered that a temple be build to house the scriptures. Buddhists believe that the aura of Buddha can dispel darkness, so to symbolize this, the Ming Emperor ordered his people to light lanterns in the court and temples on 15th of January according to the Chinese lunar calendar. Chinese people have lit lanterns on January 15th ever since to celebrate the Lantern Festival.

3. Lantern riddles

Guessing lantern riddles is a popular addition to the Lantern Festival that appeared during the Tang Dynasty. As you would imagine, the game is to write riddles and have other people try to guess them. This is a popular social part of the Lantern festival and provides great exercise for the brain!