Chinese Lantern Festival

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Chinese Lantern Festival

Written by
Michael Hanna

Spring lantern festival

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A time for twinkling lanterns, celebrations, and togetherness celebrating the end of the Chinese New Year.

The Chinese lantern festival (also called Yuánxiāo Jié Festival) is always celebrated on the 15th day of the first Chinese lunar (Lunisolar) month so usually February or March; this day traditionally marks the end of the Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) period, and in 2021 it is February 26 2021, and this will be the first significant feast after Chinese New Year.

The breath-taking scene as beautiful glowing lanterns cover the night sky, all over China, can make anyone feel like they’re in a fairy tale.

Chinese lanternSending off illuminating lanterns symbolises bidding farewell to the year behind and welcoming the new one. As the sun sets in the crimson shades of the sky, the farmers come together to thank the Gods and pray. It’s the start of new beginnings, leaving the past and old year behind. With big smiles and warmth, everyone greets each other, “Happy New Year!”

This 2000-year-old tradition has now become an integral part of Chinese culture. Sometimes the lanterns have riddles attached to them or on a slip of paper. Typically, the riddles are related to Chinese culture with characters, events of the past, literature, geography, and more.

Feng Shui lantern festivalUsing colour is essential; red lanterns play an integral role in Feng Shui. They are often associated with fertility. Hanging a red paper lantern on either side of your bed can help you bring a little life to the world.

The lantern festival customs and activities vary regionally, including the lighting of lanterns, watching them with friends and family, admiring the full moon, fireworks, guessing riddles, eating tangyuan, lion and dragon dances, and much more! 

The spherical shape of the lantern mirrors the moon in feng shui, representing the feeling of serenity within the people.

The beloved lantern is the most popular decor item during the Chinese New Year. Here are a few dos’ and don’ts you can use to bring good fortune your way.

  1. Never reuse a lantern.

You may have probably heard this before, but it’s always advised not to reuse a lantern from the previous year. Leave the old in the past and begin the new year with new things.

  1. Decorate the house red!

Red is the most auspicious colour according to Chinese traditions. When you hang a red lantern at the entrance of your house, it invites good fortune to come knocking at your door.

  1. Hang more than one lantern

More is always better! Hanging just one lantern isn’t considered good because good things come in pairs!

  1. Symmetry is essential

Ensure while hanging the lanterns that both the lanterns stand at the same height and distance as each other.

  1. Don’t hang them at the centre of the door!

Hanging a lantern in the middle obstructs the path of flow. When the centre is not blocked, the positive and negative qi can flow in & out of the house without barriers. However, if the path is blocked, they won’t be able to do so.

  1. Remember to hang the lantern at the correct place

The lanterns should be attached at the side of the door in the appropriate areas. These areas can be south, southwest, Northeast.

It is said that the north belongs to the water, and that can contradict the fire-nature of the lantern. Hence, it’s said not to hang the lanterns in the north.

Feng Shui Chinese lantern festivalIt is advised that if you’ve not cleaned your home and gotten rid of old things before the New Year arrives, one must do so immediately because taking that unfinished business with you to another year will only cause hindrance. It is also emphasised that people finish off their old projects before the year ends to reduce the baggage. People declutter and remove things that don’t serve a purpose anymore, organise, service their electronics, and also to cut their hair!

People also change their doormats every year so that they don’t carry the energy from the previous year into the new one. For as long as I can remember, we have always thrown away an old doormat and replaced with a brand new one every year.

The food plays an imminent role in the lantern festival celebrations. A lot of traditional dishes are served based on their association. Uncut noodles symbolise that a long life remains ahead, sweet dishes signify the hope that the new year comes with sweetness. The mandarin oranges are a crucial object! They symbolise fortune or golden luck! People always eat fish during the Chinese new year because it sounds like “abundance” in Cantonese.

The best part comes the day after New Year’s Day! Children eagerly wait for red envelopes every year. These red envelopes signify a helping hand from the senior generation to the juniors; it’s a token of appreciation and wishes that financial prosperity and well-being comes to them. Some families exchange small gifts within themselves. Hundreds of candles are lit to symbolise embarking upon a new journey, a new era.

It is said to avoid the use of sharp objects like knives, cutters, or scissors, as they may “cutaway” your luck from the new year.

Ox2021, The Year of The Yin Metal Ox Metal Rat – Xin Chou, is the second of the twelve Chinese astrological signs.

And hence, Ox years symbolise creativity and conceptualisation. They say the seeds that are sowed in the darkness of the Ox years; the late winter season will germinate very well. When you throw a pebble in still water, the disturbance of the pebble hitting the water causes ripples; life is like that too. Life comes back to the same after that ripple calms down; these ripples signifies the endless possibilities of a new start. That is the importance of the fresh start and new beginnings that the Ox brings to the table.

Dates of future Lantern Festival:

  • 2020: February 8
  • 2021: February 26
  • 2022: February 15
  • 2023: February 5
  • 2024: February 24
  • 2025: February 12
  • 2026: March 3
  • 2027: February 20
  • 2028: February 9
  • 2029: February 27

Lantern Festival Facts:

Common Chinese name: 元宵节 Yuánxiāojié /ywen-sshyaoww jyeah/ ‘first night festival.’

Alternative Chinese name: 上元节 Shàngyuánjié /shung-ywen-jyeah/ ‘first first festival’

How to greet – Happy Lantern Festival! 元宵节快乐!Yuánxiāojié kuàilè! /ywen-sshyaoww-jyeah kwhy-luh/


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