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The Lantern Festival falls on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month, usually in February or March in the Gregorian calendar. As early as the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 25), it had become a festival with great significance.

This day's important activity is watching lanterns. Throughout the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), Buddhism flourished in China. One emperor heard that Buddhist monks would watch sarira, or remains from the cremation of Buddha's body, and light lanterns to worship Buddha on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month, so he ordered to light lanterns in the imperial palace and temples to show respect to Buddha on this day. Later, the Buddhist rite developed into a grandfestival among common people and its influence expanded from the Central Plains to the whole of China.这一天重要的活动就是看灯啦。早在公元前206年至公元220年的汉代,佛教就在中国盛行。有一位帝王听说僧侣可以看到舍利,也就是佛被火化后留存在体内的东西,在阴历的正月十五这一天点灯敬拜佛祖,于是这位帝王就命令这一天在他的宫殿和庙宇里点灯以表现他对佛祖的尊敬。此后,这项佛教仪式发展成为普通民众的盛大节日,它的影响力从中原地区一直蔓延到整个中国。


Till today, the lantern festival is still held each year around the country. Lanterns of various shapes and sizes are hung in the streets, attracting countless visitors. Children will hold self-made or bought lanterns to stroll with on the streets, extremely excited.

"Guessing lantern riddles"is an essential part of the Festival. Lantern owners write riddles on a piece of paper and post them on the lanterns. If visitors have solutions to the riddles, they can pull the paper out and go to the lantern owners to check their answer. If they are right, they will get a little gift. The activity emerged during people's enjoyment of lanterns in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). As riddle guessing is interesting and full of wisdom, it has become popular among all social strata.“猜灯谜”是节日的核心部分。灯笼的主人会将谜语写在一张纸条上并贴在灯笼上。如果游客能解开灯谜,他们就能将纸条拿下来去灯笼的主人那看答案是否正确。如果答案是对的,他们将会得到一份小礼物。这项活动最早在宋朝(公元960-1279)出现,当人们在赏灯的时候开始。由于猜灯谜极具趣味性,又需要动脑筋,所以后来在全社会各阶层中受到普遍欢迎。

People will eat yuanxiao, or rice dumplings, on this day, so it is also called the "Yuanxiao Festival."Yuanxiao also has another name, tangyuan. It is small dumpling balls made of glutinousrice flour with rose petals, sesame, bean paste, jujube paste, walnut meat, dried fruit, sugar and edible oil as filling. Tangyuan can be boiled, fried or steamed. It tastes sweet and delicious. What's more, tangyuan in Chinese has a similar pronunciation with "tuanyuan”, meaning reunion. So people eat them to denote union, harmony and happiness for the family.人们在元宵节的时候会吃元宵,因此这个节日也就叫做元宵节。“元宵”还有另外一个名字—汤圆,用糯米粉做皮,玫瑰花瓣、芝麻、豆酱、枣泥、胡桃肉、干果、糖和食用油做馅,做成的小面球团。汤圆可以煮、炸或者蒸来吃。吃起来甜甜的,很美味。而且,汤圆在中国和“团圆”这个词的发音相似,代表着团团圆圆。因此人们吃汤圆会象征着家庭的团圆、和谐和快乐。

In the daytime of the Festival, performances such as a dragon lantern dance, a lion dance, a land boat dance, a yangge dance, walking on stilts and beating drums while dancing will be staged. On the night, except for magnificent lanterns, fireworks form a beautiful scene. Most families spare some fireworks from the Spring Festival and let them off in the Lantern Festival. Some local governments will even organize a fireworks party. On the night when the first full moon enters the New Year, people become really intoxicated by the imposing fireworks and bright moon in the sky.在元宵节的白天里,会有很多表演节目,例如,舞龙灯、舞狮、采莲船、扭秧歌、踩高跷和打鼓。到了晚上,除了华丽的灯笼,烟火也是另一道美丽的风景。很多家庭从春节开始就在放烟火,并且延续到了元宵节。一些本地政府还会组织烟火晚会。在晚上,当新年的第一轮满月出来后,人们就会被天空中华丽的烟火和明月所陶醉。


The Lantern Festival is celebrated everywhere on January 15th of the lunar calendar, right after the Spring Festival.


Traditionally, the Lantern Festival is a part of the Spring Festival.


This day is always the first full moon in the lunar New Year.




Across China, people celebrate by hanging up lanterns and festoons, attending dancing and singing performances, making “Yuan Xiao” or sweet rice dumplings and lighting fireworks.


This is also a continuation of the Spring Festival celebration.


On the Lantern Festival night, the moon illuminates the dark sky while many lanterns shine bright colors on the earth.


The traditions of viewing decorative lanterns on this night began more than two thousand years ago in the Western Han Dynasty.


In the earlier times, those beautiful lanterns were only seen in the imperial palaces.


Slowly it evolved into a celebration on the grand scale for the ordinary folks everywhere.


A few days before the lantern festival, people begin gathering oiled paper, silk cloths, bamboo sticks and flower to make all types of lanterns.


Some people go to the lively streets to pick a personal favorite.


The lanterns sometimes come in a series about certain folklore, holiday customs, or lucky mascots.


The Lantern Festival is also a romantic holiday.


In feudal society, young girls were not allowed to go out freely.


But on the night of the Lantern Festival, they were allowed to view the lantern lights in groups.


Sometimes couples would go on dates strolling down the streets lit with lantern lights.


Today people still invite others to view lanterns together.


Across China, the Lantern Festival is celebrated in many different styles.


In places near water, people put Lotus Lanterns in the river to let them flow down stream, carrying the loss they feel for the relatives that have passed away.


In the North, as traditional customs combined with modern science and technology, there evolved the Ice Lantern Festival.


The combination of the ice and snow with colored lights, carvings, designs, and special scenery yield a spectacular winter paradise.


The Lantern Riddle is a special word-game played by the Chinese people.


The Chinese people not only craft many types of beautiful lanterns for the others to appreciate, but also create many interesting riddles.


The traditional riddles are written on the lanterns.


Today, many people glue a slip of paper with the riddle at the bottom of the lanterns for the viewers to solve.


Those who solve the riddles correctly will receive a prize from the riddle’s creator.


Just like China’s other traditional holidays, the Lantern Festival also has its own special dish —“Yuan Xiao”, or sweet dumpling soup.



Although the sweet dumplings differ in name and recipe from the North and South, they are always made with glutinous rice flour as the outside.


The filling is usually composed of different kinds of fruit kernels and sugar.


The sweet dumplings are always round and white, as it represents the moon on the night of the Lantern Festival.


Sweet Dumplings Soup




lantern riddles



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