Everything to Know About Chinese Lantern Festivals

July 27, 2019

The tradition of Chinese lantern festivals is based on an ancient way of bringing the New Year celebrations in China to a close in an enjoyable way. Referred to by different names depending on age and region, the lantern festival sees houses and business properties decorated with traditional lanterns often inscribed with riddles. Britannica reports the festival was created to promote peace, happiness, and love between members of the nation of China.

The history of the festival

The Chinese New Year is celebrated with its basis on the traditional lunar calendar with the first month of the year known as Yuanxiaojie, according to GB Times. The name of the festival translates into English as first night with many experts believing this refers to the festival taking place during the first month of the year at night. The birth of the festival is mysterious with various stories relating who, when, and how the lantern festival was born with changes made to the traditions throughout history.

The Buddhist monks

One of the most popular stories regarding the birth of Chinese lantern festivals is that of the Buddhist monks celebrating the life of the Buddha. The practice proved popular with those in and around Buddhist temples and slowly began to be adopted by the general public during the Han Dynasty of 206BC to 220BC. What we do know about the origins of the lantern festival is the fact it became popular in the Han dynasty when the Emporer would begin the celebration.

Celebrating the New Year

The Chinese calendar runs with the passage of the lunar year with the celebrations of the New Year taking place across a number of weeks. Some experts believe the lantern festival was designed to coincide with the first full moon of the year on the 15th day to allow everybody to know when to bring their celebrations to a close. However, another story has developed from the time of the Han dynasty which states the lantern festival was created by farmers in the Southwest region of China where a traditional torch festival takes place. In this area, farm owners and workers would come together during the first full moon of the year and light torches before moving through the fields to drive out any pests.

Gifts and sticky balls

The origins of the Chinese lantern festival may be a mystery, but the modern traditions make this a fun way to end the New Year celebrations. The tradition of writing riddles on lanterns is widespread with any person who solves these puzzles given a small gift by the property owner. Visiting any property during the lantern festival will usually see a visitor offered sweet sticky rice balls as a small way of taking part in the celebrations going on around them.

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