The lantern festival traditionally marks the end of the two-week celebration of the Chinese New Year. In Chinese it is called “yuánxiāojié”(元宵节)which directly translates as ‘first night festival’. So, why is it called Lantern Festival in English? Well, one of the main attractions of the festival is lots of lanterns of different shapes and sizes.

The origin of the Lantern festival

The story of the origin of the lantern festival goes like this. A long, long time ago there was a beautiful crane that flew from heaven to earth. Villagers hunted, bound and killed the crane. But this was the Jade Emperor’s favorite crane and he got so upset that he decided to destroy the whole village.  The Jade Emperor’s daughter warned the village and a wise man told them to hang red lanterns around their houses and explode firecrackers. When the army of the Jade Emperor came to destroy the village and saw this, they thought it was already being destroyed so left it alone.  The villagers were safe and happy, the lanterns and firecrackers had saved them.

What do people do during the festival?

Lantern Festival includes a number of traditional activities. We have already mentioned the viewing of the lanterns, people also light firecrackers, eat sweet dumplings and go out to watch the first full moon of the year.

Many local Lantern Festivals also add performances, such as dragon lanterns, walking on stilts, paddling boats, twisting yangko, playing Taiping drums, and lion dances. These activities are usually outdoors, for example, people will watch a lion dance performance on the street.

The lion dance is a famous activity in China

The lion dance is something famous in China. The lions are made from cloth strips in colorful, striking designs. Each lion is generally performed by two people, one for the head and the other for the tail. Accompanied by music of gongs and drums, the performers do an acrobatic dance imitating the movements of a lion. The lion dance is considered as something for exorcising evil and avoiding evil.  

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