The annual lantern festival is one of the biggest dates in the Chinese calendar, bringing an end to Chinese New Year celebrations with a variety of colorful lights, decorations and fireworks. Celebrated on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar, in 2015 the festival falls on 5 March.
As early as the Western Han Dynasty(206 BC-AD 25), it had become a festival with great significance. During the Lantern Festival, children go out at night to temples carrying paper lanterns and solve riddles on the lanterns.
In ancient times, the lanterns were fairly simple, and only the emperor and noblemen had large ornate ones. In modern times, lanterns have been embellished with many complex designs. For example, lanterns are now often made in the shape of animals. The lanterns can symbolize the people letting go of their past selves and getting new ones, which they will let go of the next year. The lanterns are almost always red to symbolize good fortune.
In modern times, the festival is sometimes referred to as Chinese Valentine’s Day because of the opportunity it gave young girls and boys to go out in the evening.
In the early days, young people were chaperoned in the streets in hopes of finding love. Matchmakers acted busily in hopes of pairing couples. The brightest lanterns were symbolic of good luck and hope. As time has passed, the festival no longer has such implications in most of China, but it is still commercialized as the Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day?in China.
Main article: Tangyuan (food)
Eaten during the Lantern Festival, tangyuan (Rice ball) is a glutinous rice ball typically filled with sweet red bean paste, sesame paste, or peanut butter.The Chinese people believe the round shape of the balls, and the bowls in which they are served symbolize family togetherness, and that eating tangyuan may bring the family happiness and good luck in the new year.