The Chinese New Year holiday comes to its climax with the Yuan Xiao (元宵节—yuán xiāo jié), or Lantern Festival. Celebrated on the 15th day of the first Chinese lunar month, the Lantern Festival also marks the end of the Chinese New Year Spring Festival period. This year, this day falls on Friday, March 2nd 2018.
Origin and History（历史典故）
There are many different beliefs about the origin of the Lantern Festival. However, its roots trace back more than 2000 years ago and is popularly linked to the reign of Emperor Ming of Han at the time when Buddhism was growing in China. According to the legend, in the beginning of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25–220), Emperor Ming of Han was an advocate of Buddhism. He noticed that some monks lit lanterns in the temples to show respect to Buddha on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. Therefore, Emperor Ming ordered all households, temples and the imperial palace to light lanterns on that evening. This Buddhist custom gradually became a grand festival among the people. From there it developed into a folk custom.
Lighting and Watching Lanterns（灯会）
Lanterns are the most notable part of the festival. Which you can probably tell by the name. Throughout history, countless variations of lanterns have been created. They can be small globes that fit in your palm, or as large as a parade float. People make lanterns in symbolic designs as well.
A famous variation is the Kongming lantern. They represent hope, success and happiness. In the past, people used kongming lanterns to signify they were safe after an attack. Nowadays, they are used for making wishes.
Guessing Lantern Riddles（猜灯谜）
The ancient Chinese would often get together with some friends, drink wine and write poetry. Plays on words and riddles were a favorite pastime. During this festival, lantern owners write riddles on paper notes and pasted them upon the colorful lanterns. People crowd round to guess the riddles. If someone thinks they have the right answer, they can pull the riddle off and go to the lantern owner to check their answer.If the answer is right, there is usually a small gift as a prize. According to many love stories, you can catch the attention of your crush through this game!
Lion & Dragon Dances（舞狮舞龙）
Dragon dance has a history almost as long as Chinese culture itself. The performers create impressive formations to the beat of Chinese drums and cymbals. Lion dances can be seen in any festive event, from holidays to weddings and store openings. The lion is intricately designed, with movable eyes and mouths.
Stilt walking, or maneuvering while on stilts, is a popular traditional performance art for the Han ethnic people, especially in Northern China. The shows are performed by stilt walkers who each have 2 long stilts tied to their feet, making them taller than everyone else around them. The spectacle is especially a delight for children and families. These performances can usually be seen during important festivals and events such as the Spring Festival and the Lantern Festival.
Eating Sweet Dumplings（吃汤圆)
The trademark food of the Lantern Festival is called yuán xiāo, just like the festival itself. It’s also known as tāng yuán in the South, and one of the many tasty Chinese New Year desserts. They are glutinous rice dumplings with sweet fillings made of syrup, red bean paste, black sesame paste or more. They can be steamed or fried, but usually boiled and served in hot water. They represent family reunions because tang yuan sounds similar to “reunion” (tuán yuán) as the Lantern Festival is also a night for families.