Tag Archives: Lanterns

Persian Fire Festival

The Persian Fire Festival or “Chahar Shanbeh Suri” as it is known locally is an annual and ancient holiday which takes place on the last Tuesday of the solar year.

The festival marks the start of the New Year in ancient Persia (known as Norruz) starts on 21st March which is also the first day of the astrological year and the first day of Spring.

Local revellers see in the New Year by jumping over bonfires. This practice is thought to be a sign of purification and fertility as outlined in the teachings of their faith.

The ancient Iranian religion Zoroastrianism, from at least 2nd Century BC (some records indicate that this should be 7th century BC but cannot be supported) pre-dates that of Islam and the main ethos of the faith is that mankind’s good deeds ensure that chaos or evil is kept at bay and water or more importantly fire (which were the second and last elements created) form a hugely important part of the religious ceremonies as they are both considered to be life sustainers.

They also light any number of lanterns which are of course sent high into the night skies.

It is referenced as a ‘pagan’ festival purely because of the fire and water references but they keep the bonfires alight from late evening and are kept going through the night to ‘keep the sun alive’ until the following break of dawn not unsimilar to those of most of the other non-deity worshippers.

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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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