Category Archives: Chinese Lanterns

Lantern Festival 2015

WHAT: Lantern Festival 2015
WHEN: Thursday 5th March
WHERE: East Asia
WHY: To Celebrate The End Of The Chinese New Year Holiday

The Chinese Lunar New Year is upon us and this is the Year of the Goat (or sheep).

There are many ‘significant’ events during the CNY festival including the previously mentioned reunion dinner but none more so than the Lantern Festival which takes place this year on the 5th March. The festival is celebrated in one format or another across Asia and in many western societies where large numbers of Eastern Asians reside.

Over in Hong Kong, the most westernized of Chinese areas, it has become something more akin to our Valentine’s Day as it is informally the day of couples spending time together walking in the parks or visiting the temple to view the messages of love on the lanterns. Lanterns are widely acknowledged as symbolizing ‘letting go’ of past issues and the main colour used for them is red which is a sign of good fortune in China.

The lantern festival always falls on a full moon and it marks the birthday of the ‘Heaven Officer’ who blesses and bestows good luck upon the humans. Legend has it that a bird flew down to earth from the heavens, sent to show its great beauty to the Chinese people. However, it was hunted for this beauty and the Jade Emperor was not happy and he sent his troops down to burn down the villages for their acts of defiance and cruelty. But, the daughter of the Jade Emperor warned the villagers of her father’s plans to destroy the village enabling them time to prepare. The people, in an attempt to prevent this from happening, set off loud firecrackers and fireworks, fires in the streets and hung red lanterns from buildings so that the emperor’s people would believe that their village was no more and report back, which they duly did. Phew … a legend is born.

Having had many names for this part of the New Year celebrations over the years, today it is called the Yuan Xiao Festival. Over in China almost every household eats Yuanxiao; which are small rice balls stuffed with either a sweet or savoury filling like peanut butter, candied sweet tangerine peel or sesame.

It is a time for reflection and gentle enjoyment and it is considered a day to relax and enjoy the beautiful gently floating lanterns and beautiful fireworks alongside traditional Lion and Dragon dances.

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Chinese Lantern Festival 2014

The Lantern Festival is one of the most important of five traditional celebrations in the Chinese calendar. Falling on the 15th day of the 1st month of the new Lunar Calendar and it marks the end of the Chinese New Year/Spring Festival celebrations.

The Lantern Festival is linked to religions/legends most of which can be traced back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220AD).

One of the earliest ‘Legends’ tells how the first Emperor initiated lavish ceremonies to worship the ‘gods of the heavens’ to unify his people and the celebrations should continue until the next day.

Like with all other Chinese cultural and belief systems, they are almost all closely connected to the natural world. One of the legends suggests that bright red lanterns were created and displayed to ‘trick’ the bad ‘gods’ into believing that the village was on fire and thereby escaping the wrath of the gods.

Along with the lanterns, the celebrations also include a sweet dumpling called Yuanxiao – it is a small, ball-shaped dumpling made of glutinous rice flour/wheat flour with a filling inside. They are usually either boiled, steamed or fried and the round shape is said to symbolize family togetherness which of course is at the centre of the celebrations.

In ancient times, these sweet treats included honey, walnuts, sesame, rose petals, tangerine peel and dried fruits. Today, they are very similar and made to the same recipe tens of hundreds of years later. Further to this, they have added a savoury or ‘salty’ version made with minced beef and vegetables.

Over the years, Buddism and Daoism cultures were absorbed into the celebrations and gradually they spread throughout China.

Lantern parks are purpose-built all over China specifically for the festival. In ancient times the lanterns were usually made of bamboo covered with coloured silk or paper whereas today, whilst many are still made in the traditional way there are now a wide variety in plastic with wired frames as well as glass ones and even flashlight types.

The lantern parks attract literally tens of thousands to simply view the lanterns on display both during the daytime and later in the evening. Many of the lanterns also contain riddles which gathered friends and families will try to solve.

There are still a huge number of processions, involving children who carry these exceptionally beautiful lanterns through the streets of cities and villages across China.

Chap Goh Mei – 元 宵 节 快 乐

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And we have these beauties!

If you have never lit a Chinese or ‘Magic’ lantern and let it go into the skies above you really are missing out on a feeling that is almost spiritual.

The Loi Krathong Festival is an event celebrated throughout Thailand and some areas of Burma and Laos. The name Loi Krathong literally translates as Floating Crown or Floating Decoration which comes from the traditional practice of creating buoyant decorations which are then floated on the river in their thousands. Not un-similar to the Lantern Festival in China but the majority of the lanterns over there are actually sent up in the sky.

The festival normally takes place on the eve of the full moon of the twelfth month. The origins of the event are a little speculative but it is believed to have started as an ancient ritual paying thanks to the water spirits. There are many references that also say that it was adapted from Buddhism and the light of the candle is said to offer praise and the floating nature of the Krathong to symbolize letting go of negative thoughts.

The event is a big family affair which includes parades, Thai dance, live music concerts, beauty pageants and of course FIREWORKS.

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