Culture: Exploring the Chinese Lantern Festival

What is the Chinese Lantern Festival?

Chinese New year, also called Spring Festival (listen 春节 Chūn Jié), in China, marks the beginning of the Spring season.

The Chinese Lantern Festival (listen 元宵节 Yuán Xiāo Jié) marks the final day of these celebrations.

The lanterns symbolise people letting go of the past year and welcoming the new year with good fortune.

When is the Chinese Lantern Festival?

The Chinese Lantern Festival falls on the fifteenth day of the first month in the Chinese lunar calendar.

During this time, try saying this in Mandarin:

listen 元宵节快乐! Yuán xiāo jié kuài lè! - Happy Lantern Festival!

How do Chinese people celebrate the Lantern Festival?

Many different performances and activities take place to celebrate the Chinese Lantern Festival.

Lanterns (listen 灯笼 Dēng lóng) are hung from Chinese New Year’s Eve until the end of the Chinese Lantern Festival.

Lantern owners often write riddles, called listen 猜灯谜 cāi dēng mí, on a paper note and paste them on the lantern.

The crowds who come to view the lanterns will then try to guess the riddles.

Give this one a try:

Chinese lanterns

‘What belongs to you, but others use it more than you do?’

You can find the answer to this riddle at the end.

Why not try making your own Chinese paper lantern?

Some cities in China also put on amazing displays of colourful lights as a part of the celebrations.

Chinese dragon dance

A variety of performances will take place in different regions of China for the Lantern Festival, but two of the most popular performances are:

listen 舞龙 wǔ lóng - dragon dance

listen 舞狮 wǔ shī - lion dance

Both the lion and the dragon are symbols of power and good luck in China, and the dances intend to bring happiness and good fortune to people.

What do Chinese people eat for the Chinese Lantern Festival?

The most popular food for the Lantern festival is listen 汤圆 tāng yuán.

汤圆 Tāng yuán are rice dumplings with sweet fillings, unwrapped, steamed or fried and served in syrup.

Rice dumplings represent family reunion - their name even sounds similar to the Mandarin for ‘reunion’ (listen 团圆 tuán yuán).

Chinese rice dumplings with sweet fillings

The answer to the riddle is ‘Your name’.

Regenerators: Green Classroom!