The Lantern Festival is over 2000 years old. It is a time for enjoying tangyuan or yuanxiao (ball dumplings in soup). Originally it was a Buddhist custom instituted by Emperor Hanmingdi, a Buddhist himself. Hearing that some monks lit lanterns to honour the Buddha on the 15th day of the first Lunar month, he ordered that all temples, households and royal palaces should light lanterns on that evening. And now there are so many different beautiful lanterns on this night depicting images of China – fruit, animals, buildings, people and flowers. Lighting the lanterns symbolises lighting the way, illuminating the future and the birth of new life.
Chinese New Year is now in full swing although today and tomorrow are considered ‘rest days’ and are relatively quiet with people spending time with family dinners and with friends.
Day 13 sees everyone convert to vegetarianism for one day! This apparently is to give weary digestive systems a rest. The day also honours Guan Yu, the God of War and sees businesses offering special thanks to this famous very fierce General.
Day 14 is spent preparing for the Chinese Lantern Festival – the final big event of New Year. This day has been often compared to Valentine’s Day when in antiquity, single women would take oranges and write their names and contact details on them – then throw them in the river! Then the young men would collect the oranges and determine whether they would take a chance on contacting the young lady based on the sweetness or sourness of the fruit!
Not to be confused with the Mid Autumn or Moon Festival, which is also sometimes referred to as the Lantern Festival, this is a time when candles are lit to attract friendly spirits. Often many people gather in crowds in China and form processions, walking with candles and lanterns to bring peace and good fortune. After two weeks of celebration and excitement, the most important festival on the Chinese and Asian Calendar comes to a close.
Lastly there is the tradition of Riddles. People write riddles on paper notes and stick them to their lanterns. If you can guess the answer you may pull the riddle from the lamp and take it to its owner where if correct you may be gifted a prize. This is very popular in China and originally was a tradition started in the Song Dynasty (960-1279).
So make sure you are ready for the final night of the New Year Festival. Stock up on Tangyuan and dumplings. At Tang: The Asian Food Emporium we are open as usual during the Festival. And when you enjoy your Tangyuan, we, along with you, express best wishes for you and your family this New Year and into the future.