This holiday is the largest outside of China, but there are places on the mainland where there is something to see.
I absolutely do not like the Chinese New Year for its noisy, lack of atmosphere and crowds of people. During the whole week, we hide from the New Year’s fuss: we buy food, lock ourselves at home and wait until the waves of tourists subside. But the lantern festival is completely different — now we are rushing to the street ourselves.
The celebration of the Chinese New Year ends with the Lantern Festival. This is the most atmospheric event for all the winter holidays, and for it we went to the neighboring city of Quanzhou( Chinese: quanzhu), where this tradition has been fully preserved and the festival can be seen in all its glory.
So, why is the lantern festival better than a pompous New Year’s Eve?
Usually, the festival is held when most people finish their weekends: people return to work, children rush to school. Unlike the Chinese New Year, there will not be a million tourists on the streets, which is very much worth it in China. A walk around the city leaves a completely different impression when someone’s umbrella does not rest against your side and no one shouts “Hello!”across the street.
In addition, the locals themselves participate in the holiday — this gives the event a special atmosphere.
Tuanzhou met us with a pleasant surprise — several main streets of the city were blocked and turned into pedestrian ones. They were immediately occupied by all sorts of stalls and shops, but unfortunately, only plastic lanterns were sold there-otherwise we would not have been able to resist buying another souvenir.
It is rare to see a happy Chinese family walking around the city. Basically, we notice them only in restaurants. Another truth is that most Chinese cities are not so pleasant for walking-only when special events take place in them, such as the lantern festival.
Each lamp on the street is individual.
We met a few foreigners and tourists, after all, most of the people were local, walking with families or large groups of friends.
But there were a lot of representatives of the local press. A couple of times we even saw cameramen and journalists snatching people out of the crowd for an interview. We avoided this fate by quickly running around the corner:)
Imagine that you are entering a city and do not see cars on the streets. There are no people in sight either. But in the distance, thousands of flashlights are red, people’s voices can be heard, the hiss of oil on the wok, and the smoke from dozens of huge pots with sweet rice balls hangs in the air. This is the real holiday of Yuanxiao.
These sweet boiled dumplings made of sticky rice flour with a filling of seeds and nuts are called tangyuan (Chinese), or yuanxiao on behalf of the festival. It’s just wonderful that the Chinese came up with this treat — at least we have some options for breakfast 🙂
Officially, the lantern festival is held one evening — on the 15th day of the first lunar month. To make sure that all the efforts to decorate the city are not in vain, the festival usually lasts for several days, so the holiday atmosphere lasts in the city for a long time. New Year’s Eve passes very briefly: silence, madness from firecrackers and fireworks, and again silence. In general, it is difficult to feel this holiday if you are deprived of gifts.
Flashlights are all different. Some are made in the traditional style by craftsmen, probably cost incredible money and belong to large companies, others represent schools, kindergartens and hospitals and are often made by children themselves.
And this is an example of a traditional style. Many of them have tags where information about the master and the enterprise to which this lantern belongs is written.
In Chinese, “fish” sounds the same as “wealth”, so fish is an indispensable entourage of New Year’s holidays.
Minions are very popular in China. At one time, McDonald’s even made a special bright yellow ice cream and there were many people who wanted to eat this delicious chemistry.
It was difficult to pass without taking photos at every step.
Many foreigners, before coming to China, imagine it in their dreams like this: red lanterns, traditional music, oriental elegance. The truth is that such things are rare in modern China. Therefore, Quanzhou is famous for its particularly beautiful lantern festival — in other cities this tradition is simply forgotten.
Jianzhi, is the Chinese art of paper cutting. Lanterns in this style look especially elegant.
On the streets you can meet a lot of girls in masks. I have not seen any information about such a tradition in the legends about the holiday. I think that this is a modern innovation that particularly plays into the hands of the romantic component of this holiday.
Lamps with a rotating mechanism are particularly interesting — they turn into a small theater.
To me, as an outsider, this holiday seemed much more family-friendly than the New Year. On this day, instead of sitting in restaurants, parents go out to watch flashlights with their children, and couples walk until late in the evening. People are finally communicating, and not hanging out watching a Gala concert during a family dinner. No wonder the lantern festival is considered the Chinese Valentine’s Day — earlier it was a rare opportunity for a girl to go out, and for a young man to find a suitable life partner.
It’s hard to forget the atmosphere of this holiday — you can feel with your skin when people around you are happy.
An interesting stand with the 100 most common surnames in China was also put up on the street. My Chinese 黎 is on the list 🙂
Food plays an important part of the holiday in China. When we were walking along the street, it was impossible to avoid the numerous smells that attacked us from all sides. There was smelly tofu, sweet caramel, smoked chicken, and stewed pork.
Arthur was able to plunge into the atmosphere of the holiday and feel like a child again:)
Unfortunately, in most modern cities, the original paper lanterns are replaced with a more durable and bright LED illumination. The same thing happened in Xiamen, so we had to leave for neighboring Quanzhou, the traditions of making lamps and hanging them on the streets of the city are still preserved.
Don’t forget the traditions, it’s so beautiful.
How to get from Xiamen?
The most convenient option is to take a high-speed train from the main railway station right in the center of Xiamen, which is called Xiamen station (Chinese: Xi Xiamen zhan). In this case, the road will take you only 45 minutes, and the ticket will cost about 30 CNY .
The train departs several times a day, it is best to look at the schedule here in advance.
If for some reason you could not get on the train, there are many buses leaving from Xiamen in the same direction. But this is not a very convenient option, since you will spend more than an hour on the road, and the ticket costs more-40 CNY .