Traditions of China: Fun Facts to Know About Lantern Festival 2020
By: Vanessa Anderson
China is a popular country for its traditions, customs, and rituals. Being one of the most majestic lands with colorful hills and valleys, and ancient history it has made name for itself among the most cultural countries ever to exist.
Talking about culture reminds us of how much Chinese are enthusiastic about their festivals. China is a living, breathing example of vibrant colors and festivals celebrated based on the lunar calendar. Chinese festivals are something to look forward to, with the onset of the New Year many festivals are ready for the runway.
Origins of Lantern Festival - Where It All Begins
Festivals are as old as centuries, especially Chinese festivals mark century’s old traditions that are deeply rooted inside of community and represent a colorful yet symbolic meaning. One of the most worldwide celebrated festivals is the Lantern Festival where thousands of lanterns are lit and blown away.
Let’s go back in time, 2000 years to be exact during the Han Dynasty when Emperor Hanmingdi actively promoted Buddhism. The story goes like this, monks used to lit lanterns on every fifteenth day of the first lunar month, this day represented the full moon. So, upon hearing this as a tribute to the Buddha, Emperor announced that all household, temples and royal sects will light lanterns for that evening.
Since then the custom continued and so far till 2020, you can see masses of crowds joining Chinese communities all around the world to celebrate it.
Facts to Remember About the “first Night Festival”
Also popular as First Night Festival, this celebration marks the end of the Chinese New Year festival. Chinese always finds some peculiar way to welcome or even when it's time to end a festival they hold celebrations. Sounds weird? It's not.
The ritual blowing lanterns takes place under the full moon, continues with a three-course meal with friends and family under the twinkling sky. But as usual, there's always more than meets the eye, those of you who are not familiar with the festivities can learn intriguing facts such as;
Red is the Brand Color for the Festivals
If you take a wide look around the only vibrant color highlighting the streets will be a vibrant red. For some reason, the Chinese love the idea of bright, colorful lanterns. Usually, the lanterns are oval-shaped and gold tassels hang from the bottom. Some particular patch design is made or a greeting is painted on those lanterns.
It is believed the color red symbolizes warmth, happiness, and good fortune. These lanterns are made out of thin paper or silk and wired around the bamboo frame or a rattan. Besides the traditional lanterns, you will also find square-shaped lanterns in white color.
A Three-line Variety of Lanterns
The main hero of the day for the lantern festival are the lanterns (of course) and you will find three types of lanterns.
Hanging lanterns are usually used for decorations during the festival, at homes and public spaces. Every inch of the street is covered with these lanterns and it is believed that it brings protection to the people. Then there are the flying lanterns, usually filled with hot air (like hot air balloon) and they are released in the night sky (a ritual for the festival). The third type of lanterns is floating lanterns. Usually, these are reserved for their use in Dragon Boat Festival but you can see them here and there in the lakes or ponds as well.
The festivities are incomplete with them.
What Does the Design Say?
As mentioned earlier, lanterns are usually red, and in china, each color is a symbol towards some earthly quality. Colors like red, orange, pink, white are mostly used but if it's a flying lantern you will see masses of white-colored lanterns flying as high as possible in the air.
The shape also holds integral meaning, such as the round shape represents the wholeness and togetherness in China – an unbreakable bond. Besides, the calligraphy holds significance as a traditional way of wishing the greetings or some popular phrases that chase the evil away. It's rather fascinating to see the pictures of dragons drawn alongside. Mostly the zodiac animal of the year is drawn to symbolize its importance in the Chinese culture.
What Does Lanterns Represent?
Started as an honor or a tribute to Buddha, beforehand they were used mainly to provide light while worshipping or for decorations. If you travel to Forbidden City or Pingyao’s Ancient City, don’t be surprised if you see the lanterns hanging all year round!
And there go the celebrations, thanks to Emperor Hanmingdi, it became a proper festival, to begin with. Now lanterns have taken a U-turn for good and represent spiritual superstition as well, said to belief channeling Buddhist deities. With time the meaning and symbolism of lanterns have evolved just like the Chinese language.
Specialty in Taste of Yuanxiao
Every festival consists of something special to taste, and how can the lantern festival be without any? Yuanxiao, a dumpling made from sticky rice flour is stuffed with various fillings and symbolizes the festivities.
Similar to other food items put on the table, this dumpling is popular for its shape and various fillings each with a unique taste. An array of similar recipes are put on the table and an auspicious meal is enjoyed under the full moon with friends and family.
It All Sounds Fascinating, Right? Why Don't You Get to Experience the Lantern Festivals for Yourself?
Even with the ongoing tremor, lantern festival is like a sun on a cloudy day
Unexpectedly the year didn't have a favorable start, with the advent of coronavirus the festivities have been trammeled but nothing less, it is a way to stay motivated and let the festival bring its inspiration into your hearts and homes. Even with the ongoing dilemma, prepare yourself to have some light-hearted gathering and have an appetite for the food.
Let the festivities bring everyone closer at heart.