The Lantern Festival - |The Lantern Festival|History|Earliest origins|

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The Lantern Festival
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The Lantern Festival

The Lantern Festival (simplified Chinese: 元宵节or simplified Chinese: 上元节) is a Chinese festival celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunar year in the Chinese calendar. It is not to be confused with the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is also sometimes known as the "Lantern Festival" in locations such as Singapore, Malaysia. During the Lantern Festival, children go out at night to temples carrying paper lanterns (simplified Chinese: 兔子灯) and solve riddles on the lanterns (simplified Chinese: 猜灯谜). It officially ends the Chinese New Year celebrations.
In ancient times, the lanterns were fairly simple, for only the emperor and noblemen had large ornate ones; in modern times, lanterns have been embellished with many complex designs. For example, lanterns are now often made in shapes of animals.
The Lantern Festival is also known as the Little New Year since it marks the end of the series of celebrations starting from the Chinese New Year. 
History

The 15th day of the 1st lunar month is the Chinese Lantern Festival because the first lunar month is called yuan-month and in the ancient times people called night Xiao. The 15th day is the first night to see a full moon. So the day is also called Yuan Xiao Festival in China. 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 (元宵)(glutinous rice ball) and get all their families united in the joyful atmosphere.
Earliest origins

There are many different beliefs about the origin of the Lantern Festival. But one thing for sure is that it had something to do with celebrating and cultivating positive relationship between people, families, nature and the higher beings they believed were responsible for bringing/returning the light each year. 
A common legend dealing with the origins of the Lantern Festival speaks of a beautiful bird that flew down to earth from heaven, which was hunted and killed by some villagers. This angered the Jade Emperor in Heaven because the bird was his favorite one. Therefore, he planned a storm of fire to destroy the village on the 15th lunar day. The Jade Emperor's daughter heard of this plan, and warned the villagers of her father’s plan to destroy their village. The village was in turmoil because nobody knew how should they escape their imminent destruction. However, a wise man from another village suggested that every family should hang red lanterns around their houses, set up bonfires on the streets, and explode firecrackers on the 14th, 15th, and 16th lunar days. This would give the village the appearance of being on fire to the Jade Emperor. On the 15th lunar day, troops sent down from heaven whose mission was to destroy the village saw that the village was already ablaze, and returned to heaven to report to the Jade Emperor. Satisfied, the Jade Emperor decided not to burn down the village. From that day on, people celebrate the anniversary on the 15th lunar day every year by carrying red lanterns on the streets and exploding firecrackers and fireworks.

Young people were chaperoned in the streets in hopes of finding love. Matchmakers acted busily in hopes of pairing couples. The brightest lanterns were symbolic of good luck and hope. As time has passed, the festival no longer has such implications.
Those who do not carry lanterns often enjoy watching informal lantern parades. In addition to eating tangyuan (simplified Chinese: 汤圆;), another popular activity at this festival is guessing lantern riddles (which became part of the festival during the Tang Dynasty), which often contain messages of good fortune, family reunion, abundant harvest, prosperity and love.

 

Today, the displaying of lanterns is still a big event on the 15th day of the first lunar month throughout China. Chengdu in 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 countless visitors. The most eye-catching lantern is the Dragon Pole. This is a lantern in the shape of a golden dragon, spiraling up a 27-meter-high pole, spewing 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.

    Relative Links:
    The Mid-Autumn Festival
    The Lantern Festival
    The DuanWu Festival
    Holidays in China
    China Geography
    Chinese History
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