The Chinese Lantern Festival

Lantern Festival is a Chinese festival celebrated on the 15th day of the first month in the lunisolar Chinese calendar. It fell on a Friday, March 2 this year. This festival marks the end of the Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival celebration. y
There are many different beliefs about the origin of the Lantern Festival. However, its roots trace back more than 2000 years ago and is popularly linked to the reign of Emperor Ming of Han at the time when Buddhism was growing in China. According to the legend, in the beginning of the Eastern Han Dynasty, Emperor Ming of Han was an advocate of Buddhism. He noticed that some monks lit lanterns in the temples to show respect to Buddha on the 15th day of the first lunar month. Therefore, Emperor Ming ordered all households, temples and the imperial palace to light lanterns on that evening. This Buddhist custom gradually became a grand festival among the people. From then it developed into a folk custom.
Of course people appreciate many different lantern styles for the festival; lanterns can be made in different shapes to symbolize different meanings. Most lanterns people buy or enjoy are red, because red symbolizes good fortune. Besides lanterns, people also buy big balloons for kids on Lantern Festival. Similarly, most of them are also red. It is also common for people, usually families, to get together, light up candles and put them inside of “kongming” lanterns, which are lantern-shaped, but aerial. People do it to make wishes and let their old selves go and embrace the new, but in the past people used “kongming” lanterns to signify that they were safe after a war.
It is similar to Thanksgiving; people, usually families, gather either in a restaurant or at home, typically eating “tang yuan,” or “yuan xiao,” depending on which part of China someone is from. “Tang yuan” is mostly called in southern China, while “yuan xiao” is more commonly used in northern China. They are glutinous rice balls or sweet dumplings, mostly filled with sweet red bean paste, sesame paste or peanut butter and round in shape, but nowadays some people like me prefer fruit jam inside of them. Usually there would be a family dinner on that day, so people all eat “tang yuan” or “yuan xiao,” which shows the hope of all family members being together and being healthy and happy, because “tang yuan” sounds similar to “reunion” in Chinese.
Like Spring Festival, people could watch Lantern Festival Gala on TV that night. However, the show would not be as long as Spring Festival Gala, and generally it is also less formal than Spring Festival Gala. From around 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Lion Dance might also be on TV that night.
Guessing lantern riddles is another part of this fun holiday. The ancient Chinese people would get together with some friends, drink wine and write poems, so playing on words and riddles was a fun activity, and this custom has been passed on even in the modern day. During this festival, people could guess riddles written on the lanterns or a piece of paper on them. If someone gets the right answer to the riddle, they could get some small gift as a prize.
It is also a fun day for children. Since it indicates the last day of Spring Festival, people set off fireworks as well. Children could hang out with some friends and enjoy fireworks outside.
Surprisingly, people usually do not take a day off on Lantern Festival, but after that day, people start working hard to achieve their dreams in a brand new year.