The Lantern Festival (元宵节, yuánxiāo jié) is held annually in China. It is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month of the lunar year when the first full moon of the new year appears in the sky. The Lantern Festival is one of the most important holidays in the Chinese lunar calendar. It is spent with family and loved ones in a joyous atmosphere. In 2024, it will fall on February 24. What will happen during the Lantern Festival 2024?
Lantern Festival – what are the origins?
You can find the first information about the Lantern Festival as early as 2,000 years ago, during the Han Dynasty. The tradition of the festival most likely originates from Buddhist traditions, where, on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, sarire or ringsel were worshipped, i.e., small, pill-shaped objects that were left after a monk’s cremation. They were believed to contain the essence of the mind and soul of the deceased. On this day, lanterns were lit to honor Buddha, which was noticed by the emperor, who was also a follower of Buddha. He ordered lanterns to be lit in all homes, but also in the imperial palace, to honor the Buddha in this way.
There are also other legends about the origin of the holiday. One of them tells of the god Taiyi. Taiyi was the god of the heavens and could send floods, droughts, and other calamities to people. To appease the god and ask for his blessing, the emperor held a magnificent ceremony that lasted all night. During it, Taiyi was asked to gift the people with good weather and health. Such a tradition has survived to this day and has found its place in Chinese culture.
How is the Lantern Festival 2024 celebrated?
In ancient times, the Lantern Festival was celebrated extremely pompously, with ceremonies lasting several days. Today, the celebration of the holiday has changed. It is not a national holiday and, therefore, there is not a statutory time off. This does not change the fact that the tradition, which originated in ancient times, has survived to the present day in various forms.
Lanterns and riddles
During the Lantern Festival, people decorate their homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces with lanterns. On this day, they can be found on almost every corner. Such a lantern can be made by hand or bought. On some of the lanterns hung by the doors of houses, you will be able to find short riddles or puzzles written on them. If you manage to solve one of them, you can visit the host of the house and answer the riddle you found. As a reward, you will usually receive a small gift.
The dragon dance is part of a centuries-old Chinese tradition. There are several types of dragons in China, and the lion dance is also very popular. Creating a dragon to dance with requires practice and is considered an art form. The dragon is divided into three parts: head, body, and tail. The skeleton is constructed from bamboo, and the skin is made from multiple layers of paper. Finally, the dragon is painted, and various intricate decorations are attached to it. The dancers participating in the dragon show also dress in colorful traditional clothes. During the performance, they are usually accompanied by gongs and drums. The group of dancers is led by one person with a pole, the end of which resembles a ball. After the performance, traditionally, the head and tail of the dragon are burned, and its body is given to a temple.
Traditional food at the Lantern Festival
The Lantern Festival will also feature traditional Chinese dishes and snacks. The most popular dish during this festival is probably yuanxiao, also called tangyuan. These are small balls made of glutinous rice flour, usually served with bean paste, sesame seeds, meat, and other toppings. They can be fried or steamed. The Chinese regard them as a symbol of unification and harmony in the family.
Lantern Festival 2024 – a summary
In 2024, the Lantern Festival will be celebrated on February 24. It is not a public holiday, but it should be kept in mind that it is an important day for Chinese people, and most of them will want to spend it with their families. For this reason, contact with Chinese manufacturers may be hindered. However, it is a very good opportunity for businesses that produce, for example, lampposts, lanterns, or snacks, which are traditionally eaten during this holiday. These are purchased on a massive scale in China during the Lantern Festival.