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Lantern Festival—Start the Year Right!!!

It’s still celebration time!!   March 5, 2015 is officially Lantern Festival, which is celebrated on the 15th day of the first month of traditional Chinese calendar.
According to the Chinese tradition, at the very beginning of a new year, when there is a bright full moon hanging in the sky, there should be thousands of colorful lanterns hung out for people to appreciate. At this time, people will try to solve the puzzles on the lanterns and eat yuanxiao (glutinous rice balls) and get their families united in order to enjoy the beauty of the lights and spend joyful time together.

Guessing the Lantern Riddles

Guessing the lantern riddles is one of the most popular activities of the Lantern Festival.

Guessing the lantern riddles, also known as playing lantern riddles, is one of the most commonly enjoyed activities of the Lantern Festival. The lantern riddles tradition came about as people would write riddles on notes and paste them on the colorful lanterns. If visitors think they might have the right answers to the riddles, they could pull the paper out and then go to the lantern owners to check their answer. If they were right, they would get small gifts. This practice developed during the Southern Song Dynasty (960-1279), whose capital, Lin'an (today's Hangzhou) was the political center of the Southern Song Dynasty).  The custom flourished since it is interesting and informative thing to do and has become popular among all social strata.

Origin and History

The Lantern Festival is one of China's important traditional festivals, which can be traced back to 2,000 years ago.  During the reign of Emperor Hanmingdi (58-75 BC) the main activity of Lantern Festival was to light and watch lanterns. As time progressed, the festivities became more involved.   One of the more elaborate celebrations took place during the Tang Dynasty (618-907).  This was a highly prosperous period in Chinese history with its developed economy, flourishing culture, and powerful national force, so the Lantern Festival was celebrated with extravaganza and on a huge scale. It is recorded that the Lantern Festival which was also called ‘meeting of lamp shadow’ became a country-wide carnival. The variety, quantity and quality of lanterns in the Tang Dynasty far surpassed those of past dynasties, with their design and ornamentation embodying the grandeur and fascination of Tang Dynasty. It is said that during the reign of Emperor Tangxuanzong (685--762), people in Chang'an City (today's Xi'an City), watched fifty thousand various kinds of lanterns for the festival. The Emperor ordered construction of a 150-feet-tall lantern tower with 20 rooms as part of the festivities too.

Current Celebrations

Walking to cure diseases (Zou Baibu)
"Walking to cure diseases" is an important activity during the Lantern Festival in some areas of North China to pray for health. At night, women dressed in their best holiday costumes gather together to have a walk together, and they go across every bridge they encounter. They walk for a long time, sometimes till midnight. This custom was originated from the Ming Dynasty a thousand years ago in North China, and is believed to be praying for health. Normally it is held on the 15th or the 16th day of the first month on traditional Chinese calendar.

While today’s celebrations are slightly less show-stopping, the festival continues to hold an important place in everyday life. In Chengdu, the provincial capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province, for example, holds a lantern fair each year in Culture Park. During the Lantern Festival, the park is a virtual ocean of lanterns. Many new designs attract large numbers of visitors. The most eye-catching lantern is the typically the Dragon Pole. This is a lantern in the shape of a golden dragon, which spiral up a 38-meter-high pole and spews fireworks from its mouth. Cities such as Hangzhou and Shanghai have adopted electric and neon lanterns, which can often be seen beside their traditional paper or wooden counterparts. The guessing of lantern riddles is still popular today; these riddles often contain messages about good fortune, family, abundant harvests, prosperity and love.

Agreed. Those sentiments offer an excellent way to start off the yearJ!  Hope your family enjoys the festival with your loved ones and good wishes.

Sources: Wikipedia, Highlights.com., China.com


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