What is the Chinese Lantern Festival?
Let’s learn all about Chinese Lantern Festival then…
When is Chinese Lantern Festival?
Chinese Lantern Festival: the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar is 元宵节 (Yuánxiāo Jié) “the Lantern Festival” literally the “night of the first-month Festival” which is also is the last day of 春节 the Spring Festival celebrations.
Typically this falls in February or early March of the Gregorian calendar.
Traditionally it confirms the last day of the Chinese New Year celebrations.
DID YOU KNOW – 元宵节 Yuánxiāo is not the only way to say “lantern festival” in Chinese, 上元节 (Shàng yuán Jié) is, in fact, another common name for this festival and it literally means “The First First Night”, as you can see, no lanterns are mentioned in Chinese so…
Why is it called the Lantern Festival?
This Chinese festival is known in English as the Lantern Festival because watching lanterns 灯笼 (dēnglóng) in different shapes and sizes is one of the main attractions of this special day.
What is the origin of the Chinese Lantern Festival?
There are different versions of the legend behind it, but this is one of the most popular ones:
In ancient times a holy crane flew from heaven to Earth, but when it landed the holy creature got lost and killed by some villagers that thought it was a fierce beast. The Jade Emperor was extremely angry and upset when he heard that his favourite crane was killed by a human. He ordered his troops to go into the human world to destroy the whole village by fire on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month.
However, when the Jade Emperor’s daughter, a kind and graceful goddess, warned the villagers about the bad news, all of them fell into despair. An old and wise man was the only exception. He instructed the villagers to hang red lanterns around their houses and to set off fireworks and firecrackers to simulate a vast fire.
When the army of the Jade Emperor came to destroy the village, they saw the lights, the smog and heard the noise of the explosions. They thought that the village was already set on fire and so they left. Therefore, to celebrate how they survived from this crisis, people light lanterns 灯笼 (dēnglóng) and set off fireworks 鞭炮 ( biānpào ) on that day every year.
Other popular traditions of the Lantern Festival are the Lion Dance and the Dragon Dance.
What’s the difference between the Lion Dance and the Dragon Dance?
The Lion Dance 舞狮 (wǔ shī) is performed by two people wearing a Lion custom, while the Dragon Dance 舞龙 (wǔ lóng) is performed by many people wearing a long Dragon custom.
What’s the traditional food eaten on the Chinese Lantern Festival?
During the Lantern Festival, Chinese people gather together and eat round, glutinous rice balls filled with sweet red bean paste, sesame paste, or peanut butter. These are respectively called 元宵 (yuánxiāo) in the North and 汤圆 (tāngyuán) in the South.
As the first full moon of the year shines in the sky, many young Chinese will find the Lantern Festival the perfect time for being alone with their crush. For this reason 元宵节 (Yuánxiāo Jié) is also considered the original Chinese Valentine’s Day.
Want more from LTL?
If you wish to hear more from LTL Mandarin School why not join our mailing list. We give plenty of handy information on learning Chinese, useful apps to learn the language and everything going on at our LTL schools! Sign up below and become part of our ever growing community!