Jan 312014

Dragon_Lantern_FestivalThe Lantern Festival is the final celebration of the Chinese New Year. Also known as the Yuan Xiao Festival because it occurs on the first month of the lunar calendar. The first month is called is yuan, and long ago, the night in Mandarin was called xiao.

The celebrations take place on the first full moon of the Lunar New Year. Colorful lanterns light the skies. People solve riddles written on the lanterns and eat yuanxiao (glutinous rice balls).

There are many origins stories. One is about Taiyi, the God of Heaven. Taiyi had sixteen dragons to do his bidding. They could bring about disasters such as drought and famine. The emperor would ask Taiyi to bring favorable weather and good health to him and his people. Another tells of Tianguan, the Taoist god of good fortune, whose birthday falls on this day. His followers celebrated with activities and prayer. There are several other stories, but the actually origin is unknown.

Thousands of lanterns in all shapes, sizes, and colors are hung. Children carry lanterns at night to temples.

Writing riddles on the lanterns is an ancient practice. People guess the answers to the riddles throughout the night.

Individuals make or buy a lantern to represent their personal wishes for the new year. Wishes or blessings are written onto the lantern. In some places, the lanterns are released and float up into the sky like mini-hot air balloon sending the wishes and prayers to the heavens.The color of the lantern is symbolic.

• light green: growth
• light blue: hope
• light purple: idealism
• orange: money
• peach-red: opportunity
• pink: romance
• red: good fortune
• white: health
• yellow: success

Notable lanterns include the The Dragon Pole, a golden dragon lantern spiraling up a 27-meter -high pole and spewing fireworks from its mouth. And in Taiwan, a giant zodiac animal lantern is lit on the city square.

The food of the day is filled rice balls. Known as yuanxiao in the North and tangyuan in the South, the balls are made with a glutinous rice flour and stuffed with filling. Northern Chinese favor salty fillings of minced meat and vegetables while in the South sweet fillings are preferred.

Preparation varies between northern and southern China as well. In North China, the fillings are pressed into hardened cores, dipped in water, and then rolled in a flat basket containing dry glutinous rice flour. Some of the flour sticks to the filling. It is then dipped in water again followed by a rolling it in the flour again. The process is repeated until the dumpling reaches the desired size. In the south, the dough is shaped into a ball, a hole is made, the filling stuffed inside, and then the hole is sealed and smoothed.

The round shapes of the balls as well as the bowls they are served in symbolize family togetherness. Eating yuanxiao together brings happiness and good luck in the new year.

Other countries have similar festivals by different makes: Chap Goh Meh Festival in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, Yuen Siu Festival in Hong Kong, Tết Thượng Nguyên or Tết Nguyên Tiêu in Vietnam, and Koshōgatsu in Japan.

Celebrate with goodies from Zazzle

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image courtesy of GoShows, Wikipedia.org

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 January 31, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 am Celebrations