Chinese New Year Lantern Festival
This particular holiday is called Yuan-Xiao, and it is celebrated 15 days after the start of the Chinese New Year, the night of February 17/18th 2011.
The Lantern Festival in China is very old; legend has it that there are many wonderful stories about how the Lantern Festival first began. One story is that in ancient times, people would go in search of spirits with burning sticks. They thought the spirits could be seen during a full moon.
Another is about a lonely young girl, in Han times, who tricked an emperor into having a wonderful festival just so she could visit her family. The emperor apparently had such an excellent time, he decided to make this festival an annual event.
According to one legend, from ancient times, a celestial swan came into the mortal world where it was shot down by a hunter. The Jade Emperor, the highest god in Heaven, vowed to avenge the swan. He started making plans to send a troop of celestial soldiers and generals to Earth on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, with orders to incinerate all humans and animals.
However, the other celestial beings disagreed with this course of action, and risked their lives to warn the people of Earth. As a result, before and after the fifteenth day of the first month, every family hung red lanterns outside their doors and set off firecrackers and fireworks, giving the impression that their homes were already burning. By successfully tricking the Jade Emperor in this way, humanity was saved from extermination.
By T'ang times, many families simply set aside one evening, during the first full moon after the new year, to honour the moon. They would sit outside, and gaze up, in awe and delight.
Stunningly beautiful lanterns from cities as wide apart as New York, London and Beijing.
Today, people wear white in honour of the moon, lanterns are hung in the malls and markets, and children carry paper lanterns to school, to light their way to a bright and happy future.
The lantern displays can be found in the town centres, the squares and temples. In China there is often a lantern competition at the temple. Traditional lanterns are made of paper. They can make the lamps turn by the heat circulation from the candle inside.
Today the light of the lamp comes mostly from electricity. People like to design for the Chinese New Year Lantern Festival by using zodiac animals, historical figures, saint and gods of Taoism or Buddhism. Certainly, the current year's animal symbol of the Chinese calendar is most popular subject. Using a computer they can now design the lantern with different movements, the different colours of light and even using the laser light with special visual and sound effects.
The Lantern Festival is also referred to as the Yuan-Xiao Festival. This is because Chinese eat Yuan-Xiao on this day. This custom originated from the Eastern Jin Dynasty in the fourth century and then became popular during the Tang and Song Dynasty.
Yuan-Xiao is Similar to Tang-Yuan
They consist of sweet rice flour and are made into sticky glutinous balls. These can then be filled in with sesame, red-bean or peanut butter paste. Usually, they are served with sugar water; although some people still make a salty Tang-Yuan.
The difference between Yuan-Xiao and Tang-Yuan is the way they are made and cooked. This is because that Chinese in different geographic areas prepare the food in different ways. The Chinese people call the one they eat on Winter Solstice Day, Tang-Yuan. The one they eat on the Lantern festival is called Yuan-Xiao.
Chinese New Year Lantern Festival Held in London, England 2009
The traditional food for the Chinese Lantern Festival is Yuanxiao dumplings, named after the lonely palace maid of long ago. [Some versions of the story have her preparing stuffed dumplings for the God of Fire, as this was one of his favourite foods]. Yuanxiao are made with sticky rice flour. They can be sweet or savoury; filled with everything from sugar, walnuts, and dried tangerine peel to meat and vegetables. Incidentally, lanterns are widely used on China Day.
The Chinese masks that you see during the Chinese New Year Lantern Festival are exclusively used during that time of the year only. The general feeling generated by the Chinese masks during this festive season is that of happiness and joy.
A man ties a New Year wish to a "wishing tree" at the Taoist White Cloud Temple, Beijing, on the day of Chinese New Year
A child in traditional costume takes part in the third day of Chinese New Year celebrations at the Dongyue temple, Beijing, China. The Lunar New Year will be marked with a week-long holiday.
At the Chinese New Year red is important. People wear red clothes, they write poems on red paper, and give children 'luck money' in red envelopes. The symbolism behind the red colour is fire, and fire burns off bad luck. As for fireworks one belief is that the cracker jacks and sparks frighten away evil spirits.
After the fireworks at the beginning of the celebration of the Chinese new year, comes the more tranquil Lantern Festival on the last day of the festivities. Most Lantern parades feature a dragon made of silk and bamboo. The dancers hold the monstrous dragon aloft on sticks. Their coordination skills make the dragon appear to dance.
Zhongqiu jie - Mid-autumn Moon Festival
This is the Mid-Autumn Festival 中秋節 which is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is usually around late September or early October in the Gregorian calendar. It is a date that parallels the autumnal equinox of the solar calendar, when the moon is supposedly at its fullest and roundest. The traditional food of this festival is the moon cake, of which there are many different varieties. See more on Zongqui jie here.
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