The Lantern Festival in China

What can be greater than Chinese New Year celebrations… Nonetheless, here comes a more truly beautiful and symbolic Lantern Festival that carries enormous sacredness and philosophical meaning.

On the 15th day of the first lunar month, two weeks after Chinese New Year, another important traditional Chinese festival, the Chinese Lantern Festival or Yuan Xiao Jie or Yuanxiao Festival (元宵节), is celebrated. It marks the first full moon of the new lunar year and the end of the Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) period. Chinese Lantern Festival 2024 will be celebrated on February 24.

Lantern Festival

Chinese New Year, also called Spring Festival in China, marks the beginning of the Spring season. The Chinese Lantern Festival marks the final day of these celebrations. After the Lantern Festival, Chinese New Year taboos are no longer in effect, and all New Year decorations are taken down. Some people still wait until after the festival to return to work or study.

China’s Lantern Festival is one of the romantic traditional Chinese festivals. In ancient times, unmarried women were not allowed to leave the house. The Chinese Lantern Festival allowed them to stroll freely, lighting lanterns, playing games, and interacting with men. This is why some say the Chinese Lantern Festival is the true Chinese “Valentine’s Day” rather than the Qi Xi Festival (七夕 ‘Double Seventh’).

The ancient Chinese gathered in the family circle to light the colorful lights together.

On this day, the Chinese people light lanterns and launch fireworks, enjoy the beauty of the full moon, make wishes, eat tang yuan (yuanxiao), and watch the traditional lion and dragon dances.

The lighting of lanterns is the most essential ritual on this holiday.  Walking through the streets, citizens carry lanterns of various shapes and sizes. The lanterns often depict traditional Chinese characters.

Chinese tradition

One of the meanings of the word “lantern” (in Chinese -灯 dēng) is translated as “newborn baby boy.” Thus, Lantern lighting symbolizes the awakening of a new life, birth. This ritual is especially essential for the Chinese because they truly believe and know that it brings hope for a brighter future and realizing their deepest desires.

Another popular tradition is Guessing Lantern Riddles. This tradition has been preserved since the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Riddles are written right on the lanterns. People gather in the crowd and try to guess the riddle. Anyone who has managed to guess the most riddles can be awarded some gifts.

One of China’s most famous traditional folk dances is the lion dance. Its appearance dates back to the Three Kingdoms period (220-280). The Chinese have always associated the lion with the symbol of courage and strength. Therefore, the lion dance was performed not only during the Lantern Festival but also during all important events. The Chinese people believe that this dance expels evil and saves good people.

In addition, on this day, the Chinese eat “tangyuan (汤圆 tāngyuán /tung-yuen/ ‘soup round’) soup with sweet rice dumplings or boiled “cakes”. Tangyuan is made from rice flour with different fillings inside. Traditionally, they are filled with sugar, marmalade paste, peanuts, sesame seeds, nuts, legumes, and even rose petals. Tangyuan can be boiled, steamed, or fried.

Notably, tangyuan is pronounced similarly tuanyuan (团圆 / Twan-ywen / «family circle”). The Chinese believe that the round ball and bowl shape symbolizes integrity and unity. Therefore, eating tang yuan during the Lantern Festival is a way to express their deepest wishes for their family and future life.

Moreover, it is believed that during the New Year celebration, the souls of ancestors go down to celebrate with their family. But during the Lantern Festival, they come back, and millions of small heavenly lanterns, lighted on this day, illuminate their path…

In conclusion, we want to congratulate all of you, especially our Chinese colleagues! May the brilliance of the Lantern Festival illuminate your life with joy, harmony, and prosperity! Best wishes for a radiant celebration. We wish you clear horizons, may all your dreams come true, and a lot of fun and success!

Happy Lantern Festival! 元宵节快乐!

Sincerely, Parcel Up team!