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.