Chinese Lantern Festival
Happy Chinese Lantern Festival. On the 15th day of the first lunar month in the Chinese calendar, as the last day of Chinese New Year festival, the Lantern Festival is also known as Yuan-Xiao Festival (元宵節).
1) The Lantern Festival Carnival (燈節）
The Taiwan Lantern Festival (臺灣燈會) is an annual event hosted by the Tourism Bureau (觀光局) of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (交通部) in Taiwan to celebrate the Lantern Festival.
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2) Sky lantern (平溪天燈)
Sky lanterns are also known as “Kong Ming Lanterns”. Legend has it that during the Three Kingdoms Period, Kong Ming (Zhu Ge Liang) released sky lanterns filled with fake information to trick his enemy, Si Ma Yi. Another legend has it that sky lanterns were shaped like Kong Ming’s hat and thus the name.
Pingxi Lantern Festival is going to celebrate its 14th anniversary, and “Sky Lanterns in the North; Beehive Fireworks in the South” have become the most anticipated of the Lantern Festival events in Taiwan's Lantern Festival.
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3) Yanshui Fireworks Display (鹽水蜂炮)
The most spectacular "audio-visual" show of Lantern Festival is without doubt the YanShui Fireworks Display, or " beehive of fireworks".It is told that in 1875, the village of Yanshui in Tainan County, was stricken with a pestilence that lasted for twenty years and nearly wiped out the town's entire population. The few survivors that remained prayed to the Goddess Kuan Yin to come to inspect the ravished land. On the day of the Lantern Festival, the town residents entreated the deity Kuan Kung and the deities of Heaven to come to earth to witness their plight, lining the route with signal fires and firecrackers to help the spirits ward off evil and rid the town of disease. When all was done, the plague was nowhere to be seen, and ever since , the people of Yanshui invite Kuan Kung to inspect the land every year on Lantern Festival, lighting firecrackers to herald his arrival to earth. This custom is continued today in the unique and spectacular Yanshui Fireworks Display.
*** I've been to the event myself before and I must say it was QUITE AN EXPERIENCE. Scary, exciting and fascinating. You just have to make sure you are COMPLETELY covered and well-protected with helmet, layers of clothes, gloves, and everything. Do NOT leave any inch of your skin exposed as the firecrackers may sneak in and burn you!!!!!
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There are many different versions of the origin of the festival, you can find them here at wikipedia. However, there is one particular version that is becoming popular,
so check them out in English or Chinese if you are interested.
In Han Dynasty, one of the emperor's favorite advisors - Mr. Fon Shuo Don (東方朔) found a weeping young lady who was ready to end her life by jumping into a well. He calmed her down and found out her name is Yuan-Xiao. Since she started to work as a maid in the palace, she never got the chance to meet her family again. She missed them so much that out of desperation, she had lost her will to live. Mr. Don promised to find a way to reunite her with her family.
Next day, Mr. Don went to the village and disguised as a popular fortune teller on the street. Everyone was given the same prediction that a severe fire will burn down the city on the 15th day of the first lunar month. Mr. Don then told the villagers that The God of Fire will send a lady in red on a gray mule on the the 13th day of the first lunar month. And the only way out was to ask her for mercy so she will not burn down the city.
On January 13th, a young lady in red did appear and told the villagers that she was the messenger from the God of Fire to burn down the city in 2 days. She must follow the order since the Jade Emperor God will be watching from the heaven. However, since the villagers asked her for mercy, she left the imperial decree from the God of Fire and told them to ask their emperor for help.
Immediately, the emperor received the imperial decree and it read - "Capital city is in grave danger. The palace & city will be burned down by the heaven fire on the 15th, all day and all night long."
Shocked and panicked, the emperor turned to his favorite advisor Mr. Don for help. Mr. Don pondered for a while then suggested, "I heard that the God of Fire likes the taste of Tang-Yuan. Since you often request Yuan-Xiao to cook Tang-Yuan for you, why don't we ask her and all the villagers to make Tang-Yuan on January 15th to worship the God of Fire. Next, we will order every house in the city to hang a red lantern and light fireworks to make it appear that the city is on fire. This way, the Jade Emperor God will be deceived when he looks down from the heaven. And finally, we need to inform that everyone, both inside the palace and outside the city to all come together to the city streets, carry their lanterns and watch the decoration and fireworks. Then everyone will be safe from the fire disaster." The emperor happily obliged and sent the order to the villagers.
So on the evening of the 15th, the entire city was filled with red lanterns, noisy firecrackers and fireworks. It looked as if the city was inflame. Yuan-Xiao's family followed the order and came to the city as they found Yuan-Xiao standing next to a big lantern with her name on it. Finally, they are reunited again. Since then, the emperor had a new order that people should do the same every year. And the festival was named after Yuan-Xiao since she cooked the best Tan-Yuan ever.
On Yuan-Xiao Festival, as the name suggested, Chinese eat Yuan-Xiao as the tradition.
Yuan-Xiao 元宵 is just like Tang-Yuan 湯圓 that are made of sweet rice flour into sticky glutinous balls. They can be filled in with sesame, red-bean, peanut butter paste or even pork.
Guessing lantern riddles"is an essential part of the Festival. Lantern owners write riddles on a piece of paper and post them on the lanterns. If visitors have solutions to the riddles, they can pull the paper out and go to the lantern owners to check their answer. If they are right, they will get a little gift. The activity emerged during people's enjoyment of lanterns in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). As riddle guessing is interesting and full of wisdom, it has become popular among all social strata.
I have posted some riddles for you to play on my Facebook Page. So go check them out.