Lantern Festival, Chinese Carnival & Valentine’s Day

The Lantern Festival is celebrated on Day 15 of the Chinese New Year, during the full moon, marking the end of the Spring Festival celebrations. This blog would discuss the origin and traditions of the Lantern Festival, as well as why it is referred to as the Chinese Carnival and Valentine’s Day. 

Origin and Development

The history of the Lantern Festival is intertwined with the changes in dynasties and historical developments. It is the longest festival of lights and seamlessly connected to the Spring Festival. The daytime is bustling with markets and lively activities, while the evening is adorned with spectacular displays of lights. The intricate and colorful lanterns elevate the entertainment activities to their peak.

lantern festival

Lantern Displays

Since the Han Dynasty(202 BC-220 AD), lantern displays have been a cherished tradition during the Lantern Festival. People hang, display, and view lanterns on the night of the Lantern Festival, when streets and alleys are adorned with beautiful lanterns. In Shanxi Province, the streets come alive with a wide variety of exquisitely crafted lanterns before the Lantern Festival. These include palace lanterns, animal head lanterns, horse lanterns, flower lanterns, and more, attracting numerous enthusiasts to revel in the enchanting spectacle.

lantern festival

Eating Yuanxiao

Yuanxiao, also known as tangyuan, is a traditional Chinese treat made of glutinous rice. It is typically filled with a variety of ingredients such as sugar, rose petals, sesame, red bean, osmanthus, or jujube, which can vary depending on the specific region. The round shape of yuanxiao symbolizes reunion in Chinese culture, symbolizing the wish for family unity and happiness in the coming year. Because of this significance, the Lantern Festival is also commonly referred to as the Yuanxiao Festival. 

Loong Dance

Records about loong lanterns can also be traced back to the Han Dynasty. Hubei Province has the richest tradition of loong lantern dance. The residents there even believe that you can be away for the Spring Festival but must return for the Lantern Festival. Loong as the symbol of auspiciousness, represents the hope for good fortune and health in the coming year.

Carnival

During the Spring Festival, from day 1 to day 5 of the first month, chinese typically only gather with family and relatives. Then they gradually expand their social circle to include friends and neighbors. By day 15, everyone joins in the festive celebrations, marking a universal jubilation. Therefore, the Lantern Festival is also regarded as China’s Carnival

Valentine’s Day

In ancient China, unmarried women were constrained by the customs and regulations of the time, often restricting their outings. During the Lantern Festival celebrations, women who typically stayed indoors were permitted to venture out and enjoy the lantern displays, providing a chance for young men and women to meet. Therefore, the Lantern Festival provided lovers with an opportunity to express their feelings and is also considered one of China’s Valentine’s Day.

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