The Lantern Festival is a festival celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. The first lunar month is called yuan-month, the night of the fifteenth day is the first night that the moon gets full, and in the ancient times people called night xiao, so the Lantern Festival is also called Yuanxiao Festival (or Shangyuan Festival) in China. The Lantern Festival is considered as a part of the Spring Festival, and it officially ends the Chinese New Year celebrations.
The 2015 Lantern Festival falls on March 5. Every year, various traditional activities are held during the festival, such as watching lanterns and fireworks, guessing the riddles on the lanterns, eating tangyuan, and so on.
According to the Chinese tradition, at the very beginning of a new year when there is a bright full moon hanging in the sky, there should be thousands of colorful lanterns hung out for people to appreciate. Traditional lanterns are made by paper, and the main types include palace lantern, and gauze lantern, etc. People then can already make the lanterns turning around by the heat circulation from the candle inside. Today the light of the lanterns is from the electricity. During the festival, you will find different kinds of lanterns, designed by using Chinese zodiac animals, birds, flowers, cartoon characters, historical figures, saint and gods of Taoism or Buddhism, and so on. Certainly, the animal sign of the current year is the most popular subject.
Apart from appreciating lanterns, people also set off fireworks to go with the festival atmosphere. Most families spare some fireworks from the Spring Festival and let them off in the Lantern Festival. Some local governments will even organize fireworks parties.
Guessing riddles is regarded as an indispensable part of the Lantern Festival. Lantern owners or organizers 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 organizers to check their answers. If they are right, they will get a small gift. Since riddles can give people both knowledge and happiness, thus they are welcomed by all classes of the society while spreading.
In the daytime of the festival, you may also watch performances, such as dragon dancing, lion dancing, land boat dancing, yangko dancing, walking on stilts, etc.
Besides entertainment and beautiful lanterns, eating tangyuan is a characteristic custom of Lantern Festival. Tangyuan, also called yuanxiao, are small round balls made of glutinous rice flour, and the round shape of tangyuan symbolizes family reunion. The fillings inside tangyuan are either sweet or salty. Sweet fillings are made of sugar, walnuts, sesame, osmanthus flowers, rose petals, sweetened tangerine peel, bean paste, or jujube paste. A single ingredient or any combination can be used as the filling. The salty tangyuan is filled with minced meat, vegetables or a mixture.