Best Asian Lantern Festival:Let’s talk about the Lantern Festival today.
The Lantern Festival officially marks the last day of the Lunar New Year celebration.
And just like the New Year, it is one of the most celebrated holidays across Asia.
In this video, I will talk about the history and list out some traditions you may or may not have heard of about the Lantern Festival.
The original purpose of this festival was to worship and celebrate great enlightened beings.
In Taoist terminology, the 15th day of the 1st month is considered the birthday of a great Taoist Deity, and it was called Shang Yuan Festival meaning Upper Yuan Festival.
The lighting tradition was first established more than 2,000 years ago.
when Emperor Wu of Han lit lanterns in his palace to worship the Taoist Deity.
By the Eastern Han Dynasty, Buddhism arrived in China.
Emperor Ming of Han ordered to light lanterns on the 15th to show respect to the Buddha’s teachings.
And this time, it was not limited to the imperial palace and temples,the emperor asked all citizens to light and hang lanterns.
Best Asian Lantern Festival
From this point on, lighting lanterns became popular among common people and eventually developed into a grand celebration on January 15th of the Lunar calendar.
As the Lantern Festival got larger and larger in scale, more and more forms of entertainment became available.
People would organize large events of lantern displays that include large colorful lanterns in a variety of shapes.
It’s usually accompanied by the classic dragon dance, various acrobatic performances, stalls selling lanterns and other hand-made items, and various food carts.
This painting from the Ming Dynasty depicts the scene where street performers were invited to the palace for the royal family to join in on the fun.
This Qing Dynasty painting is showing a similar scene.
This year I went to the first ever annual lantern festival in NYC.
Riddles have a long history in China.
Attaching riddles to lanterns, however, was believed to be first developed during the Song Dynasty.
Small strips of cloth were attached to the lantern body.
Whoever could solve the riddle would get a small prize, sometimes even the lantern itself!
It’s a fun challenging activity. It’s also a way for both riddle-makers and riddle-guessers to show off their wits.
So here’s one for you to try:
Use the 10 letters ACDEHIJLNP (on the screen) to spell out the names of four countries.
Each name must be five letters long, and the four countries must be neighbours.
Think about it, and let’s find out the answer at the end of this video.
Glutinous rice balls were first developed in the Song Dynasty and later became a must-have food item during the Lantern Festival.
I love it so much though that I just eat it all year round.
It has two different names Yuan Xiao and Tang Yuan depending on how it’s made.
If it’s made like a dumpling by wrapping the filling inside, then it’s called Tang Yuan.
Yuan Xiao on the other hand is made by rolling the filling in glutinous rice flour.
This holiday is actually most commonly known as Yuan Xiao Jie in Chinese, meaning Yuan Xiao Festival.
Yuan Xiao Jie marks the first full moon of the new lunar year so it makes sense for people to admire the moon on this day.
A full moon is round, therefore it also symbolizes reunion with family.
Chinese scholars love to write poems on this occasion as well.
Rope jumping was a popular activity for kids and women during the Lantern Festival,especially during the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
This is a unique tradition for ladies.
They didn’t get to step out of the house very often in ancient times.
But on this day, everyone from little girls to grandmas would all go out and walk across a bridge or multiple bridges.
This was believed to help get rid of all illnesses in the coming year.
According to ancient text from the Ming Dynasty, ladies would wear white tops when crossing the bridge.
You can check out my previous video on the history of this outfit.
Later on, the bridge walking tradition was expanded to climbing mountains and walking on the street, and even walking on the ice in the Northern regions.
This is another tradition for ancient ladies, but it was done in secret at first.
Ming Dynasty ladies believed touching the studs on Palace doors would grant them their wish of getting a son.
By the Qing Dynasty, it was not a secret any more, ladies would line up to touch the door studs.
And today, tourists in Beijing all take photos while touching those door studs.
It might have originated from this tradition.
This one seems a bit odd right?
It actually came from the Jurchen tribe.
During the Jin and Yuan Dynasties, they would allow 3 days of open stealing and not punish anyone for it.
Unmarried girls and boys did it in hopes for a decent spouse. Married ladies did it in hopes for a son.
Of course it shouldn’t be practiced anymore today.
As promised, the answer for the lantern riddle from earlier is China, Japan, Nepal, and India.
I hope you learned a lot about the Lantern Festival in this video. What’s your favorite part of this holiday?
And let me know in the comments below if there’s anything else you would like to learn.
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