By Xinyi Li, iChongqing
The Lantern Festival is the last significant day during Chinese New Year. It falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month with the first full moon. Additionally, the ancients called “ye” as “xiao” (both refer to “night”). Therefore, the Chinese name it as “Yuanxiao Festival”. This is one of the traditional festivals in China and Chinese-character cultural circle, as well as for the overseas Chinese. So, how to celebrate the festival?
Eating tangyuan is a Chinese traditional celebration of the Lantern Festival. Made of glutinous rice flour mixed with a little water to form balls, it can be either filled or unfilled. At first, people called it fuyuanzi (floating ball) in the past. And later, its name changed into tangyuan, with a similar pronunciation as tuanyuan (reunion). So this food is a symbol of union, harmony, and happiness for the family. People also eat it to express their good wishes for the future.
Traditionally, Chinese people will light various lanterns on the night of the full moon, to celebrate the festival. The tradition originates from the “Torch Festival”. In ancient times, people drove away insects and beasts with torches, hoping to eliminate pests and pray for good harvests.
Lighted lanterns are hung up and thousands of lantern riddles sway in the wind at Lantern Festival. Written on slips of paper attached to lanterns for people to guess, it started from Southern Song Dynasty (1127–1279). In spite of belonging to literature, those riddles cover various aspects, such as astronomy, geography, history, and modern knowledge. Therefore, it may be hard for people without some literacy to guess. However, this mysterious and unique intellectual game can express people’s emotions, train their thinking, and inspire their spirits.
The ancients would perform dragon and lion dances for favorable weather, good luck, and abundant harvests. This tradition has won increasing popularity and support from the overseas Chinese people. For every traditional Chinese festival and major celebration, they give the performances, full of the Oriental spirit.
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