light your lanterns...

Yuánxiāo Jié 元宵节 is the Chinese Lantern Festival!

Today began at 5:00 am with a barrage of firecrackers - and went out with a bang too. More like 5 hours of continual BANGS! with little rest in between. The closer to midnight - the more intense the bomb-noises became, and when Justin went out for a quick market-run - he had to duck-and-cover to make it back inside. The kids enjoyed the firework display - and managed to sleep thru the last few hours!!

The Lantern Festival always falls on the 15th day of the first month of the Lunar Year (under a full moon) - and marks the end of Chinese New Year celebrations across Asia. It has often been compared to Valentine's day in the west. The Chinese Festival dates back to numerous shrouded legends of the Han Dynasty over 2000 years ago (206BC-25AD). The different origins are based on spiritual practices of honoring Buddha, or a Taoist god - Tianguan, or even Yuanxiao (a homesick maiden). Another story speaks of people seeing spirits flying in the light of the full moon - so they used lanterns to illuminate the sky. Either way - its an old festival!

On the night of the Festival, many people fill the streets with their lanterns to watch the dragon parade, stilt-dances, play Chinese games/riddles and light off heaps of firecrackers. Some craftsmen create incredibly intricate lanterns in the likeness of butterflies, dragons, birds, etc - as well as the common red globes. Brightly lit floats parade the streets, as entire roads are shut down for the events. There is deep symbolism behind Lanterns, which you can read about here.

Another common custom - is to eat Yuanxiao (or Tangyuan) which are sweet sticky rice filled with sesame, peanut, walnut, veggie or meat filling. They can also be cooked in soup. The round shape symbolizes wholeness & unity, and is considered essential to any proper celebration!

As a family - we made our own paper lanterns (above) and lit candles in symbolism of the lights we are in this world. We sang songs and watched the fireworks from the safety of our cozy apartment!