Today marks the official end of the Lunar New Year celebrations, which comes to a close with the illuminating Lantern or “Yuanxiao” Festival. On this day, the Chinese traditionally celebrate by lighting lanterns, watching the first full moon of the Lunar year, solving lantern riddles, fireworks and eating “tang yuan” or sweet rice dumplings. Growing up, this was a time for more family reunion dinners and eating “tang yuan” for me. “Tang yuan” is a sweet dessert food made with sweet glutinous rice flour and stuffed with fillings such as black sesame, red bean or peanut paste.
Some believe this festival originated in the Han Dynasty where the Emperor Hanmingdi was a devout Buddhist and noticed monks lighting lanterns to show respect to the Buddha. He then ordered all households and temples to light lanterns on this day. As the tradition and customs evolved over 2000+ years, this celebration has come to include all varieties of lanterns including fixed hanging lanterns, lanterns floating on water, hand held lanterns and flying lanterns which are released into the night sky. The festival traditionally also includes lion and dragon dances and setting off firecrackers.
Eating “tang yuan” is also an important custom for the Lantern Festival. The word “tang yuan” sounds similar to “tuan yuan” which means reunion. So it is important to gather together with family on the Lantern Festival to celebrate the first full moon of the Lunar year and to eat sweet rice dumplings!
Do you celebrate the Lantern Festival with your family?