Every year, on February 11th, the Chinese Lantern Festival marks the end of the New Year period with a beautiful celebration of lights. Symbolically, it is the first full moon of the Chinese calendar, which symbolizes two things: the reunion of family and the beginning of Spring.
This 2,000 year old tradition is a unifying force among those who participate, though traditions differ regionally. The most popular form of celebrating, however, is lighting and releasing lanterns with friends and family. It has become increasingly popular in the United States, which hosts Lantern festivals nationwide to celebrate.
[Photos © beijingholiday.com & historicphiladelphia.com]
How can I celebrate?
The Chinese Lantern Festival is a beautiful celebration of lights and more traditional elements, like flowers and dragons lining the streets with music and lion dances. But, aside from this, there are other fun activities that are constant in the festivals that you can do from home!
Guessing Lantern Riddles
In modern times people prepare the riddles and see if the children can solve it; if they know the answer the child writes the answer on the lantern. If you get the answer right, you win a prize! Also, children can write their own wish on a lantern and then release the lantern so it floats to the sky with their wish!
Here is a link for you to create your own paper lanterns, so try writing out riddles and seeing if your child can guess the answer!
Lastly, preparing tangyuan is a classic element of the Chinese Lantern Festival. These are round, solid dumplings usually served in a sweet soup and are widely prepared throughout the festival. The round shape symbolizes unity and togetherness, both in family and in prosperity of the new year. To learn how to make your own tangyuan, see this recipe!
Of course, the most trademark tradition of the festival is releasing the lanterns into the sky in a show of optimism for the new year. No lantern is the same -- they come in shapes like dragons, or fish, or other animals, along with the traditional globes. Children often illuminate the streets and sidewalks with smaller, hand-held lanterns.
This year, there are large celebrations in New York, NY, Philadelphia, PA, Columbus, OH, and Fairfax, VA -- but even if you can’t make it, we highly recommend making your own paper lanterns and preparing tangyuan for your family.