Lantern Festival in China.
The most enchanting holiday of the Middle Kingdom brilliantly completes the events of the Chinese New Year.
The lantern festival, also called Deng Jie or Yuanxiaojie, is the last chord of the main traditional celebration of China – the Spring Festival. It falls on the 15th day (the first new moon) of the first month of the Chinese lunar year. According to ancient Taoist beliefs, this day is associated with the name of Tian-guan (“Official of heaven”), who loves light, colorful performances and fiery amusements.
According to the name, the main sign of the festival (Lantern Festival) are street lamps of various shapes – from traditional round lamps made of paper to giant figurative compositions resembling glowing statues. Decorated with such illumination, the central streets of Chinese cities become the scene of crowded festivities, with folk music, performances of dancers, carnival processions and dazzling fireworks. The obligatory traditions of the Lantern Festival include a solemn family dinner, where soup with sweet dumplings and round gingerbread made of rice flour “yuanxiao” with fruit and nut filling is served.
The history of the Lantern Festival dates back to ancient times. According to legend, the first Yuanxiaojie festival was held in 104 BC by the ruler of Wendi from the Western Han Dynasty. In honor of his proclamation as the Chinese emperor, he ordered to hang a lot of red festive lanterns everywhere, which became the main symbol of this celebration. Another symbol of Yuanxiaojie was the tiger, since according to the Chinese “lunar zodiac” the sun passes into the western constellation of the White Tiger in spring.
According to another version, the Lantern Festival originated from an even more ancient Torch Festival. During the Han Dynasty, farmers in remote regions surrounded their fields with a “palisade” of burning torches to scare away wild animals and insects from their crops, as well as attract a rich harvest. Until now, in rural areas of Southwestern China, there is a custom to celebrate the Lantern Festival in the fields, dancing by the light of reed and willow torches.
Among all the regions of China where Deng Jie is celebrated, the most large-scale events fall on the city of Nanjing. An incredible exhibition with dozens of large luminous figures is located around the Confucius Temple and along the nearby Qinhuaihe Canal. An equally interesting exhibition of lanterns during the holiday will be organized in the city of Zigong in Central China. The events of the Festival of Lights are joined by the famous Snow and Ice Festival in Harbin – the largest exhibition of this kind in the world. Yuanxiaojie is also popular outside of mainland China. In Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan, this festival turns into a Chinese version of Valentine’s Day.