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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
中国各地张灯结彩，家家户户歌舞游乐，人们做元宵、放烟火。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.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.在元宵节前许多天，人们就开始忙着用油纸、绸布、竹子和花朵等材料制作各式各样的灯笼。A few days before the lantern festival, people begin gathering oiled paper, silk cloths, bamboo sticks and flower to make all types of lanterns.花灯的主题既有民间传说，又有节日习俗和各种吉祥物等。The lanterns sometimes come in a series about certain folklore, holiday customs, or lucky mascots.The Lantern Festival is also a romantic holiday.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.The Lantern Riddle is a special word-game played by the Chinese people.人们不仅制作出各种漂亮的灯笼供大家观赏，还设计出许多有趣的谜语。The Chinese people not only craft many types of beautiful lanterns for the others to appreciate, but also create many interesting riddles.和其他的中国传统节日一样，元宵节也有自己的节日食品——“元宵”。Just like China’s other traditional holidays, the Lantern Festival also has its own special dish —“Yuan Xiao”, or sweet dumpling soup.
虽然“元宵”在南北两地叫法不同，做法也不同，但它们都是用糯米粉做皮儿。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.包出来的形状是一样的——圆圆的、白白的，因为它和元宵夜的圆月一样，代表着团圆。The sweet dumplings are always round and white, as it represents the moon on the night of the Lantern Festival.