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Celebrating the Lantern Festival, the grand finale of the Lunar New Year | CNN


As this year’s Lunar New Year celebrations draw to a close, it’s time to prepare for the grand finale, also known as the Lantern Festival.

The event, called Yuan Xiao Jie in Mandarin Chinese, takes place on the 15th day of the first lunar month (February 5 this year) and is seen as the perfect end to weeks of preparations and celebrations for the Lunar New Year.

The Lantern Festival celebrates the first full moon of the year – hence the name (Yuan means beginning. Xiao means night).

It marks the beginning of winter and the start of the spring season. It often comes very close to two of the 24 traditional Chinese solar conditions – an integral part of the Chinese calendar – ‘beginning of spring’ and ‘spring showers’.

On this day, people light lanterns to drive away the darkness and bring hope for the year to come.

The tradition is said to have gained popularity during the Chinese Han Dynasty around 2,000 years ago.

Revelers attended a local fair to admire fireworks, see performances, see lanterns and solve puzzles written on notes attached.

Lantern puzzles have evolved over time. Here’s a simple one:

When you draw it, it’s round.

When you write it, it’s rectangular.

In winter it is short.

It’s long in the summer.

The answer is sun – 日 in Chinese.

The Lantern Festival used to be one of the rare times of the year when unmarried girls and boys were allowed to meet and everyone gathered under rows of lanterns. Some even call it the Chinese Valentine’s Day.

The romantic festival is well documented in historical literature, including Journey to the West and Dream of the Red Chamber, and has since inspired countless famous poems.

Da tie hua or Hit Iron Flower is a Lantern Festival tradition.  A blacksmith throws molten iron to create a shower of sparks.

Today, the Lantern Festival is observed in communities around the world and celebrations vary significantly. Many cities hold large lantern displays and parades to mark the festival.

Putian, in China’s Fujian province, claims to celebrate the country’s longest-running Lantern Festival, with some saying it’s considered more important than the actual Lunar New Year festival.

The celebrations last nearly three weeks and include a deity parade, fire pit jumping, and many traditional theatrical and musical performances.

In the city of Nuanquan, Hebei, residents stage a spectacular “fireworks display” by throwing molten iron against a cold stone city wall to create sparks.

The centuries-old custom, dashuhua or da tie hua (translated as turnpike flower or punch iron flower), has been recognized by the Chinese government as an intangible cultural heritage. It was also one of the key performances at the opening ceremony of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

Made famous in the city of Nuanquan, da tie hua shows are also popular in other locations across China, including the Great Wall of China in Beijing’s Yanqing district during the Lantern Festival.

But in Taiwan you’ll find the most extreme lantern festival of all – the Beehives Fireworks Festival.

Thousands of daredevils in helmets and fireproof clothing held annually in the city of Yanshui bring a series of launch towers full of small rocket fireworks resembling beehives into the narrow streets.

Once lit, the towers will launch hundreds and thousands of rockets in different directions, making for a dramatic and often terrifying scene.

Tangyuan is a popular Lantern Festival snack.

No matter how big, small, or dangerous your Lantern Festival party is, you can never go wrong with a bowl of round and cute glutinous rice balls known as tangyuan while admiring the full moon.

The round motifs symbolize the reunification and wholeness of families.

Other unique celebrations take place across Asia to celebrate the first full moon of the lunar year.

In Malaysia, the focus is on the Lantern Festival matchmaking tradition. Single women often throw tangerines into a river, lake or sea to pray for a good marriage.

Women write their contact details on the tangerines before throwing them into the river. Men then fish the tangerines out of the water in hopes of meeting their future mates.

In South Korea it is called Daeboreum (the great full moon). Many Koreans sip chilled rice wine and eat various types of nuts, grains, and dried vegetables. Some not only light lanterns, but also go on a hike and make a campfire.

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