Lantern Festival, also called Shangyuan Festival, is celebrated on January 15 of Chinese lunar calendar. It is the first full moon night in the Chinese lunar year, symbolizing the coming back of the spring. Lantern Festival may be regarded as the last day of Spring Festival, the new-year festival of China, in other words, the Spring Festival does not end until the Lantern Festival has passed. Lasting to Lantern Festival, the busy atmosphere of Spring Festival on that day shows new visions and amorous feelings. Lantern Festival is regarded as a good day for family gather-together. According to the folk custom of China, people on that night will lighten up fancy lanterns and go out to appreciate the moon, set off fireworks, guess riddles written on lanterns, and eat rice glue balls to celebrate the festival.
The tradition of appreciating lanterns on the Lantern Festival originates from the Eastern Han Dynasty, which has a bearing on the introduction of Buddhism into China at that time. It is a Buddhist convention that the monks would visit sarira and lighten up lanterns to show respect to Buddha on Jan 15. Therefore, Emperors of that dynasty, who were determined to promote Buddhism, ordered people to lighten up lanterns in both palaces and temples on that night to show respect to Buddha. Additionally, civilians were all requested to hang up lanterns on that night, which is why the festival is called “Lantern Festival”. In the Song Dynasty, the custom of guessing riddles written on lanterns on Lantern Festival came into being and people at that time wrote riddles on paper strips and then pasted them on the colorful lanterns for others to appreciate and guess. In the Qing Dynasty, fireworks were set off to add fun, and the Lantern Festival by then witnessed a record-breaking grand occasion.
The traditional dim sum eaten on Lantern Festival is called “yuanxiao” (rice glue ball) or commonly called “tangyuan“. A meaning of family reunion and happiness may be felt even only from such name. Yuanxiao has its exterior made into a ball shape and white sugar, sweetened bean paste, and sesame as the stuffing. Besides, walnut meat, nuts, and even meat can be used as the stuffing as well. Apart from the boiling manner, yuanxiao may also be prepared through deep frying and steaming manners.
As time goes by, the Lantern Festival has enjoyed more and more celebrating activities. Some places even add traditional folk-custom performances such as playing dragon lantern, Lion Dancing, stilting, striking land boat, doing the Yangko, and striking Peace Drum. The Lantern Festival, a traditional Chinese festival which has undergone a history of over 2,000 years, is still very popular both at home and abroad, and any place where Chinese people live will witness a busy occasion on that day.