When the Light is Queen
Every year on the 15th day of the first lunar month, China celebrates the Lantern Festival or 'Yuanxiao Jie’, symbolising the end of the Spring Festival celebrations, and during which the light is queen.
Lantern Festival customs
At this time of the year, temples, shops and houses are adorned with vivid decorations and bright lanterns of various shapes and sizes, illuminating the streets. At night, people go out to admire the shining lights, and children have fun holding lanterns, either self-made or bought at a local shop. Other traditional practices include lantern-making, riddle games, and the savouring of ‘yuanxiao’ or ‘tangyuan’, sweet dumplings made of glutinous rice flour. In some places, folk dances such as the Lion Dance are performed.
The Legend of Zhu Rong
There are countless beliefs about the origins of Yuanxiao Jie. According to a popular legend, one night of full moon, the hot-tempered God of Fire Zhu Rong was so upset that he intended to set fire to an entire village. Fortunately, a clever man urged all the villagers to quickly hang red lanterns on the village’s every door and light firecrackers for a few days. From the sky, the glow was so intense that Zhu Rong left, convinced that the village was already burning down.
Lantern Festival in Taiwan
Here in Taiwan, one of the most popular events during the Lantern Festival takes place in Pingxi, a rural district surrounded by mountains located a few kilometers away from Taipei. Once the night falls, a huge crowd gathers in one of Pingxi’s small towns to release thousands of sky lanterns (hot air balloons made of paper) into the sky, with people’s wishes written on them. As this year’s Lantern Festival happened to be on the same day as Valentine’s Day, hundreds of heart-shaped sky lanterns could be observed floating across the night sky. The Pingxi Lantern Festival is a spectacular, heartwarming experience that marks memories forever. If you are in Taiwan, and could not make it to the festival last night, you can still release your own sky lantern and make wishes all year long in Pingxi!
by Sophie Baron