The legend behind China's Lantern Festival

September 08, 2010 | Posted by Chris

The Lantern Festival in China, celebrated above, signifies the end of the Spring Festival.

Falling on the 15th day of the first lunar month, the Lantern Festival is one of China's major holidays, as it marks the end of Spring Festival. Always taking place under a full moon, the Lantern Festival has been celebrated in China for thousands of years, and there is an important legend about its origin. Tang Yuan and Yuan Xiao, types of glutinous rice balls, are also traditional foods for this festival.

Lantern Festival: Tradition and Origin

The Lantern Festival dates back to legends of the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) over 2000 years ago. In one such legend, the Jade Emperor in Heaven was so angered at a town for killing his favorite goose, that he decided to destroy it with a storm of fire. However, a good-hearted fairy heard of this act of vengeance, and warned the people of the town to light lanterns throughout the town on the appointed day. The townsfolk did as they were told, and from the Heavens, it looked as if the village was ablaze. Satisfied that his goose had already been avenged, the Jade Emperor decided not to destroy the town. From that day on, people celebrated the anniversary of their deliverance by carried lanterns of different shapes and colors through the streets on the first full moon of the year, providing a spectacular backdrop for lion dances, dragon dances, and fireworks.

Traditional foods: Yuan Xiao and Tang Yuan

Yuan Xiao and Tang Yuan are both round balls, made of glutinous rice with fillings of sesame, peanuts, vegetable or meat. Tang Yuan are often cooked in red-bean or other kinds of soup. Their round shape symbolizes completeness and unity.

Nowadays, light show and firework display are still popular on the Lantern Festival. People enjoy the holiday by watching these shows and eating Tang Yuan with their families.

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