Each year, the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar, Yuan, is celebrated the Festival of Lanterns or flashlights in several countries in Asia. Also known as the Yuan Xiao Festival, the date coincides with February and March on our calendar, and marks the last day of the traditional Chinese New Year celebrations.
The symbolism of the festival, as in all oriental culture, is present in this event. For the common people, the celebration is the opportunity to leave behind the problems and evils of the past and ask for a future with good fortune and best wishes for friends and families.
Lighting the lanterns and letting go symbolizes letting go of the past and starting something new. They think and live this way, and it is a beautiful way to share this ritual as a visitor.
Also, for women who want to get pregnant, they walk with a lit lantern and pray for that child they are eager to receive.
And as in any expected omen, love is present. This day opens a new hope for young people to find love. And the brightest lanterns and the red ones are a symbol of good luck and hope. Despite the invasion of Western culture, this festival is still a Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day, especially in Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
How Is The Lantern Festival Celebrated?
According to popular tradition, people gather with friends and families at night. The customs are not the same in each place, but the lanterns’ lighting always gives the point of agreement.
Some make the streetlights fly through the sky, places where they are fixed, others where they are held high, and some who make them float on the water. During the festival, the most traditional include solving the riddles written on the lanterns, enjoying the spectacle of the lion dances on the stilts, and tasting the classic tangyuan.
In ancient times, lanterns were much simpler, and only the Emperor’s family and nobles made them with large ornaments. Today, lanterns are made with very complex designs. For example, with animal shapes.
During the festival, the houses are adorned with colorful lanterns that illuminate them. Many of the lanterns have riddles written on them, or inserted in some part of the design, that instigate to be discovered by offering a gift in return.
In the streets, there are also dances of lions and dragon trees, parades, and how could it be otherwise, with fireworks. Everything happens while people throw their lanterns into the water or the wind, enjoying time with family and friends in parks and public places, generating a wonderful visual spectacle.
Small balls of glutinous rice filled with fruit and nuts, called yuanxiao or tangyuan, are eaten during the festival. The round shape of the balls symbolizes wholeness and unity within the family.