Lantern Festival

Lantern Festival

The Lantern Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the first lunar month of the traditional Chinese calendar, the night of the first full moon after Chinese New Year. It is also the end of the two-week New Year holiday period. And the bears are enjoying photos from the festival around China 🙂

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The Lantern Festival is one of China’s traditional festivals and can be traced back to more than 2,000 years ago. There are a number of legends about the origin of the festival.

In the beginning of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220), Emperor Hanmingdi was an advocate of Buddhism. When he heard that some monks lit lanterns in temples to show respect to Buddha on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, he ordered that all the temples, households and royal palaces light lanterns on that same evening, resulting in time in a grand lantern festival among the people.

Another legend has the Lantern Festival originating from the Torch Festival. During the Han Dynasty, people in rural areas held torches to scare away beasts and insects to reduce crop damage and pray for a good harvest. Nowadays during the Lantern Festival, people in some areas of Southwest China still have the tradition of lighting up torches made of branches or reeds, and dancing in groups on the fields. The Torch Festival became very popular during the Sui, Tang and Song dynasties about 1,000 years ago. According historical records, during the festival, hundreds of thousands of singers and dancers participated in the celebration which lasted from evening till dawn.

One legend says that a long time ago, there were many wild and fierce animals and birds that affected the people’s safety and livelihoods. People protected themselves by killing the wild animals. One day, a sacred bird in heaven accidentally got lost and fell in the mortal world. A hunter came across the bird, thought it was a fierce beast and killed it. The heaven emperor got very angry and ordered his soldiers to set fire and burn the mortal world on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. The daughter of the heaven emperor was very kind and did not want this to happen, so she secretly came to the mortal world and cautioned the people about the impending punishment. An old man came up with the idea that every family should light up lanterns and fireworks on the 14th, 15th and 16th day of the first lunar month to trick the heaven emperor into believing that everything had been burned.

When the day came, the heaven emperor looked down and saw fire and heard thundering cracks, which went on for three days and nights. Being easily tricked for a heaven emperor 🙂 he thought his soldiers had carried out his orders and the people had been punished. Since then, people light up lanterns and fireworks on the 15th day of the first lunar month, in order to celebrate their success.

Legends aside, these days during the festival, people get together to celebrate the beginning of spring and to light and watch lanterns and fireworks, watch the lion and dragon dance, eat Yuanxiao (sweet stuffed dumplings made of glutinous rice flour served in soup) and guess lantern riddles 🙂

See how you go with these riddles…

What is the next letter in the series: OTTFFS?

If there were eight crows on a fence and the farmer shot one, how many crows would be left?

What is impossible to hold for half an hour, yet weighs virtually nothing?

Dave married two women, without getting divorced, becoming a widower or committing bigamy. Explain.

What holds water but is full of holes?

A carrot, a scarf and five buttons were found in a field. If nobody placed them there, how did they get there?

A man stopped his car opposite a hotel and immediately knew that he was bankrupt. How?

Also a part of the Chinese Lantern Festival is the annual Yanqing Ice Festival – a collection of ice sculptures that make up an incredible ice city.

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