Chinese Lantern Festival 2023
On the 15th day of the first lunar month, two weeks after Chinese New Year, another important traditional Chinese festival, the Chinese Lantern Festival or Yuan Xiao Jie or Yuanxiao Festival (元宵节), is celebrated. It marks the first full moon of the new lunar year and the end of the Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) period. Chinese Lantern Festival 2023 will be celebrated on February 5th in 2023.
On the night of the Chinese Lantern Festival, streets are decorated with colorful lanterns, often with riddles written on them. People eat sweet rice balls called tangyuan, watch dragon and lion dances, and set off fireworks.
How Do Chinese Celebrate the Chinese Lantern Festival?
The most popular traditions to celebrate Yuanxiao Festival are enjoying lanterns, guessing lantern riddles, eating tangyuan.
Lighting and Watching Lanterns
Lighting and appreciating lanterns is the main activity of Yuan Xiao Jie. Lanterns are seen everywhere including in houses, shopping malls, parks, and streets. The (traditional) lanterns are almost always red to invoke good fortune.
Lighting lanterns symbolize "illuminating the future". It is a way for people to pray that they will have smooth futures and to express their best wishes for their families. In the Taiwanese Mandarin dialect, the Chinese word for lantern (灯 dēng) is pronounced similarly to (丁dīng), which means 'to have a new-born baby', so in Taiwan putting up lanterns could even express a wish for couples to have a baby!
Guessing Lantern Riddles
Guessing (solving) lantern riddles started in the Song Dynasty (960–1279), and it is one of the most important and popular activities of the Lantern Festival. Lantern owners write riddles on paper notes and paste them on the colorful lanterns. People crowd round to guess the riddles.
If someone thinks they have the right answer, they can pull the riddle off and go to the lantern owner to check their answer. If the answer is right, there is usually a small gift as a prize.
Eating Tangyuan (Yuanxiao)
Eating tangyuan is an important custom of the Lantern Festival. Tangyuan (汤圆 tāngyuán /tung-ywen/ 'soup round'), also called yuanxiao in the north, are balls of glutinous rice boiled in a sweet soup.
As tangyuan is pronounced similarly to tuanyuan (团圆/twan-ywen/ 'group round'), which means 'reunion' and 'completeness', Chinese people believe that the round shape of the balls and bowls symbolize wholeness and togetherness. The popular lucky saying when eating tangyuan is 团团圆圆 (Tuántuán yuányuán/ 'group-group round-round'): 'Happy (family) reunion!'