The Lantern Festival has been a pop culture icon for many years. You might have seen it in movies and TV shows where hundreds of illuminating lanterns fly up in the sky. But did you know this festival has a rich historical and traditional value in Asia, particularly China?
If you don’t know much about the Sky Lantern Festival, there’s nothing to worry about. This guide will cover its history, cultural significance, and celebration date. Without any further ado, let’s dig in!
Part 1: Why Do People Celebrate the Lantern Festival?
First, let’s get the most important question out of the way. Why is the Lantern Festival celebrated?
Well, it is a part of the Chinese New Year celebrations. Also known as the Spring Festival, it holds a rich value in Chinese culture. It starts at the beginning of the year’s spring season. The Lantern Festival (Yuanxiao Festival) is said to be the last day of these celebrations.
Many people consider it the goodbye letter to the New Year celebrations. People send the lanterns in the sky, representing a ‘move-on’ from the past year.
After the Lantern Festival, the Chinese people return to their routine life and start their spring season in full swing.
Part 2: How Old Is The Lantern Festival?
Chinese culture has deep roots in history, dating back thousands of years. And the Lantern Festival is no different. It is said to be at least 2,000 years old, with connections to Buddha and a certain Jade Emperor.
Many stories revolve around the origins of the Lantern Festival. But let’s look at the three most popular ones:
- Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644 AD)
One of the legends around this festival goes back to the 1368 AD. This was the time of the Ming Dynasty when Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang introduced the Lantern Festival. According to the stories, the Emperor ordered the citizens to place thousands of lanterns in the Qinhuai River.
Since then, it has become a tradition that Chinese people follow every year for the Spring season.
- The Buddha Story
This story goes back to 206 – 220 AD when Buddhist Monks celebrated the 15th day of the lunar year. They lit several lanterns to honor Budha during the Han Dynasty period. However, whether this story is historically accurate or not is another debate.
What we do know is that the earliest evidence of this festival’s celebrations dates back to the Tang Dynasty period, which was between 618 and 907 AD. The Tang Dynasty introduced lanterns as the symbol of power in China.
- Jade Emperor
Last but not least, the story revolving around the Jade Emperor, You Di, is easily the most interesting. The Jade Emperor found this goose dead and blamed a village for its death. As punishment, he ordered his men to burn down the entire village.
But when he arrived to burn the village, he discovered lanterns were flying in the sky. He thought the village was already on fire. Thus, he left with his men.
What actually happened is that a spirit warned the villagers about Jade Emperor’s intentions before his arrival. And those villagers continued to celebrate this lantern event every year to thank the spirit.
Alt text: Lantern-festival-history.png
Part 3: How to Celebrate the Lantern Festival?
Let’s say you are planning a trip to China or are just interested in their culture. Here’s how to celebrate the Lantern Festival:
- Decorations & Lightings
Lanterns are not the only illuminating part of this festival. The Chinese people decorate their homes and landmarks with stunning lighting. Furthermore, they illuminate public places like parks, lakes, etc.
At night, people get together and throw lanterns in the sky. The best way to celebrate this festival is to be with your family, friends, or loved ones and just watch the lanterns fly away as they symbolize a brighter future!
- Eating Yuanxiao
You might have heard of Tang Yuan (Yuanxiao). It is an important food in Chinese culture. Basically, these are balls of boiled rice dipped in sweet soup. The food represents the reunion of loved ones. Also, the ball shape is significant in Chinese culture as it symbolizes completeness!
- Write & Solve Riddles
Every lantern has a riddle attached to it. You must guess the right answer and tell it to that particular lantern’s owner to win a prize. This tradition dates back to 960-1279 AD, the time of the Song Dynasty.
- Enjoy the View!
The Lantern Festival is all about the beauty and aesthetics of things. You will find brightly lit lanterns and public places. Such sights further enhance the beauty of China, especially in winter. Many places even host lion and dragon dances, as these two animals are significant in Chinese culture, representing bravery and good luck, respectively.
Part 4: Fun Facts About the Lantern Festival You Should Know
Here are some things you need to know about the Lantern Festival!
- The Lantern Festival is often considered the real Chinese Valentine’s Day due to its romantic appeal.
- Its celebrations take place all around the world, including China, The US, New Zealand, etc.
- It will be celebrated on February 24, 2024.
- In China, it is called “元宵节”. That translates to the “first night festival.”
- Fruits and nuts are also common as savory foods during this occasion.
FAQs About the Lantern Festival
Q1: Are Lanterns Safe for the Environment?
Yes, the lanterns used in the festival are biodegradable. They use rice paper and bamboo in their manufacturing, making them environmentally safe.
Q2: When is the Lantern Festival 2024?
The Lantern Festival will take place on February 24, 2024, the 15th day of the lunar year, marking the end of the Chinese Spring celebrations.
The Chinese Lantern Festival is the best way to welcome the Spring season. It symbolizes bright new beginnings and saying goodbye to the last year. But these celebrations are not limited to China only. The festival has become quite a phenomenon in the Western region. Now, many countries take part in celebrations. That means you can also participate in these illuminating festivities!
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