Lantern Festival

The Lantern Festival is a festival celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month(yaun-month) in the lunisolar year in the Chinese calendar, the last day of the lunisolar Chinese New Year celebration. And in the ancient times people called this as night Xiao.
         During the Lantern Festival, children go out at night to temples carrying paper lanterns and solve riddles on the lanterns. It officially ends the Chinese New Year celebrations.

Lantern Festival is also known as
  • Yuanxiao Festival or Shangyuan Festival in China, some regions also as St.Valentine's Day
  • Yuen Siu Festival in Hong Kong
  • Tết Thượng Nguyên or Tết Nguyên Tiêu in Vietnam
Legends
 The story about the origin of the festival is like this. Buddhism first entered China during the reign of Emperor Mingdi of the Eastern Han Dynasty. That was in the first century. However, it did not exert any great influence among the Chinese people. One day, Emperor Mingdi had a dream about a gold man in his palace. At the very moment when he was about to ask the mysterious figure who he was, the gold man suddenly rose to the sky and disappeared in the west. The next day, Emperor Mingdi sent a scholar to India on a pilgrimage to locate Buddhist scriptures. After journeying thousands of miles, the scholar finally returned with the scriptures. Emperor Mingdi ordered that a temple be built to house a statue of Buddha and serve as a repository for the scriptures. Followers believe that the power of Buddha can dispel darkness. So Emperor Mingdi ordered his subjects to display lighted lanterns during what was to become the Lantern Festival.

Facts
  • In the morning of Japanese Lantern Festival, there is a habit of eating small beans congee, Japanese believed that beans can avoid evil things.
  • China is known for silk in ancient time, rats often eaten silkworms that time, so that people cook a pot of gruel for the rats specifically in the Lantern Festival to avoid their silkworms being eaten.
Customs
  • Sending Lanterns, some blessing text were wrote on the lanterns to give the people who received the lanterns a good blessing.
  • Greeting the immortal of toilet, Chinese women use a red Shau Kei as a sedan chair, and greet the immortal of toilet (This immortal died under torture when she is alive).
  • Crossing the bridge for no illnesses, Chinese women go across the bridge with each other women, they believe this can help them no illnesses in the next year.
  • Stealing crops, Young women who steal men’s crops believe it would help them to keep the health of the their silkworm, improving the production of silk.
  • Hunting festival, 36 young women will pose as 36 different prey and dance beside the bonfire, the men arm with hunting weapons and dancing around the prey.
Food
Besides entertainment and beautiful lanterns, another important part of the Lantern Festival,or Yuanxiao Festival is eating small dumpling balls made of glutinous rice flour. We call these balls Yuanxiao or Tangyuan. Obviously, they get the name from the festival itself. It is said that the custom of eating Yuanxiao originated during the Eastern Jin Dynasty in the fourth centuty, then became popular during the Tang and Song periods.
The fillings inside the dumplings or Yuansiao are either sweet or salty. Sweet fillings are made of sugar, Walnuts, sesame, osmanthus flowers, rose petals, sweetened tangerine peel, bean paste, or jujube paste. A single ingredient or any combination can be used as the filling . The salty variety is filled with minced meat, vegetables or a mixture.
The way to make Yuanxiao also varies between northern and southern China. The usual method followed in southern provinces is to shape the dough of rice flour into balls, make a hole, insert the filling, then close the hole and smooth out the dumpling by rolling it between your hands. In North China, sweet or nonmeat stuffing is the usual ingredient. The fillings are pressed into hardened cores, dipped lightly in water and rolled in a flat basket containing dry glutinous rice flour. A layer of the flour sticks to the filling, which is then again dipped in water and rolled a second time in the rice flour. And so it goes, like rolling a snowball, until the dumpling is the desired size.