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Lantern Festival

Date of Lantern Festival 2015: 3rd March, 2015

More Chinese Public Holidays are available to better plan your tour.

Origin of the Lantern Festival

The Lantern Festival falls on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month, usually in February or March in the Gregorian calendar. As early as the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 25), it had become a festival with great significance.

Lantern Festival activities

Watching Lanterns

This day's important activity is watching the lanterns. 

Throughout the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), Buddhism flourished in China. One emperor heard that Buddhist monks would watch sarira, or remains from the cremation of Buddha's body, and light lanterns to worship Buddha on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month, so he ordered to light lanterns in the imperial palace and temples to show respect to Buddha on this day. Later, the Buddhist rite developed into a grand festival among common people and its influence expanded from the Central Plains to the whole of China.

To this day, the lantern festival is still held each year around the country. Lanterns of various shapes and sizes are hung in the streets, attracting countless visitors. Children will hold self-made or bought lanterns to walk with on the streets, often with a large grin across each of their faces.

Guessing Lantern Riddles
"Guessing lantern riddles" is an essential part of the Festival. Lantern owners write riddles on a piece of paper and post them on the lanterns. If visitors have solutions to the riddles, they can pull the paper out and go to the lantern owners to check their answer. If they are right, they will get a little gift. The activity emerged during people's enjoyment of lanterns in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). As riddle guessing is entertaining and tests one's wisdom, it has become popular throughout society.

People will eat yuanxiao (rice dumplings) on this day so some call it "Yuanxiao Festival". Yuanxiao also goes by the name tangyuan. These are small dumpling balls made of glutinous rice flour with rose petals, sesame, bean paste, jujube paste, walnut meat, dried fruit, sugar and edible oil as the filling. Tangyuan can be boiled, fried or steamed and tastes sweet and of course delicious. What's more, tangyuan in Chinese is pronounced similarly to "tuanyuan", meaning reunion so people eat them to commemorate harmony and happiness for the family. In the daytime of the Festival, performances such as a dragon lantern dance, a lion dance, a land boat dance, a yangge dance, walking on stilts and beating drums while the dancing is on stage. At night, fireworks create beautiful viewing. Most families have spare fireworks from the Spring Festival and let them off in the Lantern Festival. Some local governments will even organise fireworks parties. At night when the first full moon enters the New Year, people become mesmorised by the imposing fireworks and bright moon in the sky.

Lantern Festival dates for future Years:

Lantern Festival  in 2015 falls on Mar 5, 2015.

                  in 2016 falls on Feb 22, 2016.

                  in 2017 falls on Feb 11, 2017.

                  in 2018 falls on Mar 2, 2018.

                  in 2019 falls on Feb 19, 2019.

                  in 2020 falls on Feb 8, 2020.