Time of the Festival
Lunar calendar: January 15th
Some places also celebrate it from January 14th -- January 16th
Interpretation of the Festival
The Lantern Festival Day is the day spring returns to earth and it has the first full moon night in the new year.
Origins of the festival
Lantern Festival is the first traditional festival after Spring Festival. It first appeared early in West Han dynasty 2,000 years ago. Enjoying the light in Lantern Festival began in East Han during Emperor Ming period. Emperor Ming advocated Buddhism. He heard that the Buddhist monks lit lights to worship Buddha in lunar January 15th. Then he commanded the servants in the palace and the officials and common people light the lights to worship Buddha. Lunar January was called Yuan and the night was called Xiao in Chinese, so people called the night in lunar January 15th Yuan Xiao. With the passage of time and the development of the celebration forms, more and more new purposes and new elements were added into that day, so lunar January 15th was set to be Yuan Xiao Festival, which was also called Lantern Festival.
Lantern Festival is also a romantic festival in China, which has always been called Chinese Valentine's Day, because in the traditional feudal society, the lantern fair in Lantern Festival day provided an excellent opportunity for unmarried men and women to know each other. The young girls in traditional Chinese society were not allowed to go out, but during Lantern Festival, they could get out with companies. They could go and look for marriage. They could also go and meet their lovers while enjoy the colorful lanterns.
Related legends of the Festival
Legend of the Festoons:
It was said that long long ago, there were lots of fierce poultries and wild beasts hitting humans and livestocks. People are organized together to fight against them. A god bird fell down to human world since it was lost, but it was shot by an ignorant hunter by accident. The celestial emperor heard about it and became furious. He sent troops from heaven to set fire in human world to burn down all the livestocks, human beings and their properties. The daughter of the celestial emperor was very kind that she was out of the heart to see people being innocent victims. She came down to human world secretly by clouds taking her life risk to tell people this message. All the people were scared to do anything. After a long while, an old man thought of an idea that each family lit the colorful lights, fired fireworks and firecrackers on lunar January 14th, 15th and 16th so that the celestial emperor would believe that all the people were
burned to death. Everyone agreed and went off separately to prepare. Right in the night of lunar January 15th, The celestial emperor looked down and found the red light and shaking sound which had lasted constantly for three nights in human world. He took them as the flames burned by the fire and he was so happy that people's lives and properties are saved. To commemorate this success, every year in lunar January 15th, each family hung lanterns and fire fireworks.
Legend of eating Rice Dumplings (Yuan Xiao):
It was said that the Emperor Wu in Han dynasty had a favourite courtier named Dongfang Shuo and he was so kind and funny. One winter, it snowed for several days. Dongfang Shuo went to the imperial garden to get some plum blossoms for Emperor Wu. Just getting into the garden, he found a tearful maid going to suicide drown herself in a well. Dongfang Shuo hurriedly approached and rescue her. He got the reason she suicided that the maid, named Yuan Xiao, had two parents and a sister at home. Ever since she came into the imperial palace, she never saw her family. She missed them more especially when winter was about to go and spring was about to come. She thought that she would die rather than being away from her parents and not able to show her filial piety. Dongfang Shuo was so moved after hearing about her circumstance that he promised her to manage to get her family reunification.
One day, Dongfang Shuo got out of the imperial palace and set a divination table in Chang'an Street. Many people came to him for divination. Unexpectedly, all the people received the sign that they would be fire burned on January 16th. The whole Chang'an city got scared overnight. All the people came to find the solution. Dongfang Shuo said that in the afternoon of January 15th, the fire god would send a red clothes goddess come down to human world to burn Chang'an city.
Areas of application
Eat Rice Sweet Dumplings (Yuan Xiao)
Play Dragon Lantern
Talk about the Lamp Couplet
Enjoy the Lamp Poems
Honor and Sacrifice of the Gate
Expulsion of Rat
Send Kid Light
Meet and Sacrifice the Porcelain God
Break up all diseases
Stealing Food Festival (Minority Customs)