The Lantern Festival is a traditional Chinese festival commemorated every 15th day of the first month in the lunisolar Chinese calendar. It usually falls in February, and it signifies the last day of the traditional Chinese New Year celebrations. Even as early as the Western Han Dynasty, it was already celebrated as a festivity with great importance. During the Lantern Festival in ancient times, the lanterns were moderately simple. It was just the emperor and great noblemen who had large elegant lanterns. In modern times, lanterns have become enhanced with several complex designs. Some lanterns are now frequently made in the shape of animals.
History of Lantern Festival
The origin of the Lantern Festival has brought about various beliefs and conceptions. However, its roots go way back to over 2,000 years ago and are famously associated with the dynasty of Emperor Ming at the time when Buddhism was evolving in China. Emperor Ming was a supporter of Buddhism, and when he noted how Buddhist monks would often light lanterns in temples on the 15th day of the first lunar month. He decreed that all households, temples, and the imperial palace light lanterns on that evening. So from there, lighting lanterns developed into a folk custom.
But there’s another origin, most likely a legend — the observation of the declining darkness of winter and how the community can move about at night with human-made light. During the Han dynasty, the lantern festival was associated with Ti Yin, the deity of the North Star. Some other legend associates the Lantern Festival with Taoism. Tianguan, being the Taoist deity responsible for good fortune, has his birthday on the 15th day of the first lunar month. It is believed that Tianguan likes all types of entertainment, so his followers organize various activities during which they pray and plead for good fortune.
Yet another widespread legend about the origins of the Lantern Festival talks about an elegant crane that flew down to earth from the heavens. After it landed on earth, it was hunted down and slaughtered. This annoyed the Jade Emperor in heaven, and in his anger, he formed a storm of fire to engulf the entire village. Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty gave special allure to this event. In 104 B.C., he declared it as one of the most significant celebrations and decreed that the ceremony be held throughout the night.
Lantern Festival timeline
Early data shows that the creation of the paper lantern started in China in 230 B.C.
In 104 B.C., Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty declares that the ceremony should be held through the night.
The largest standing lantern is 66 feet 0 inches high and 107 feet 10 inches wide, and it was made in Xi'an, Shaanxi, China.
The Lantern Festival is still celebrated to this day.
Lantern Festival FAQs
What is the purpose of the Lantern Festival?
Lantern Festival, also named Yuan Xiao Festival, honors the deceased ancestors on the 15th day of the first month of Yuan of the lunar calendar. The festival directs the growth of peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness.
What do lanterns symbolize?
To the Chinese, lanterns symbolize vitality, good luck, and social status.
When was the sky lantern invented?
Sky lanterns originated in Asia, and it was first used in the 3rd century B.C. in China to signal troops.
How to Observe Lantern Festival
Light colorful lanterns
Lighting lanterns is no doubt the most known tradition for commemorating the Lantern Festival. When darkness falls, people put candles inside the lanterns and carry them outside. There are even lantern carnivals and exhibitions.
Enjoy time with family or your partner
Gathering with families and eating Tangyuan is part of the many ways Lantern Festivals create opportunities for important family reunions. But the Lantern Festival is also known as Chinese Valentine's Day. It's a day to celebrate love and passion between lovers. In the past, young ladies were not allowed to go out freely except during the Lantern Festival. Then single people would carry lit lanterns on the streets in hopes of finding their true love.
Guess lantern riddles
Guessing lantern riddles is an extremely popular activity at Lantern Festivals. The riddles usually have messages of good fortune, abundant harvests, family, and love. In ancient times, singletons could attract the attention of their crush through this guessing game.
5 Incredible Facts About Lanterns
They are almost always red
99% of Chinese lanterns are red and oval-shaped, adorned with red and gold tassels.
There are three types of lanterns
There are hanging lanterns, flying lanterns, and floating lanterns.
Lanterns existed for over 2,000 years
Historians acknowledge that the first lanterns were used during the Eastern Han Dynasty.
There are four Lantern Festivals in China
There are four Lantern Festivals in China, which are Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival, the Harbin Ice, Snow Sculpture Festival, and the Lantern Festival.
China’s lantern museum
There is just one lantern museum in China.
Why Lantern Festival is Important
We achieve a positive spirit
The Lantern Festival promotes reconciliation, peace, forgiveness, and love. When we wholesomely follow through the events of this day, we will undoubtedly achieve a positive spirit.
The lantern festival is fun
The lantern festival comes with fun for people of all ages. From the kids gleefully running around with colorful paper lanterns, to the young lovers getting to know each other and the families catching up, it's an all fun day for everyone.
We unite with family and friends
Lantern Festival is filled with color, fun, positivity, happiness, hope, love, and great memories that could last for eternity. This holiday is a family-friendly event that can be shared with everyone. Families, friends, neighbors, and others come together to create a cheerful, unforgettable experience.
Lantern Festival dates