The Chinese New Year period is coming to an end with the Lantern Festival and Google is celebrating it with a special Doodle. Here’s what you need to know about the festival and the doodle
Google Doodle is celebrating the Lantern Festival which marks the first full moon on the Lunar calendar.
The Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival marks the beginning of the spring season and the Lantern Festival is the final day when the 15-day celebration comes to an end.
Observation of Chinese New Year taboos – like not using scissors or avoiding crying children – come to an end after the Lantern Festival, with people taking down their decorations and getting ready to return to work or study.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Lantern Festival, including why and how it’s celebrated.
What is the Lantern Festival?
The Lantern Festival or Yuan Xiao Jie or Yuanxiao Festival is a traditional Chinese festival which is celebrated two weeks after the Lunar New Year, on the 15th day of the first month.
The festival marks the first full moon of the new lunar year as well as the end of the Chinese New Year period. This year, the Lantern Festival is being celebrated on Tuesday, February 15 which Google Doodle is marking with a special doodle.
What is the origin of Lantern Festival?
There are several origin stories for the Lantern Festival. One of the popular ones is that Emperor Han Mingdi who ruled at the beginning of the Eastern Han Dynasty, what an advocate of Buddhism.
It’s believed that the emperor heard that some monks lit lanterns in their temples to show respect to Buddha on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month.
He ordered that all the temples, households, and royal palaces should light lanterns that night, and this eventually became a grand event which is celebrated as the Lantern Festival till today.
Another legend says that the Jade Emperor, a Chinese deity, had a favorite crane who was killed by some villagers. He decided to destroy the village with fire on the 15th day of the lunar year.
The Jade Emperor’s daughter felt very sad about this and warned the villagers. The villagers then – on the advice of a wise man – decided to hang red lanterns to give the Jade Emperor the impression that the village was already on fire.
The emperor was tricked and the village survived. This is thought to have become the tradition of hanging red lanterns on the 15th day of the lunar year.
How is the Lantern Festival celebrated?
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Traditionally, the Lantern Festival is celebrated by lighting lanterns and sending them floating into the sky as a symbolic act that honors one’s ancestors.
Releasing the lanterns also symbolizes people letting go of the past year and welcoming the new year with good fortune.
The most common type of lantern is the small orb, but as the tradition has evolved many artisans have begun to create unique designs in various sizes and shapes—from giant dragons to lanterns small enough for children to carry.
An extra element of fun is added with many people slipping small pieces of paper with riddles on them inside the lantern.
While some riddles are easy to solve, others are notoriously difficult and have been given the nickname “lantern tigers,” as it’s said it’s easier to fight a tiger than solve them.
The night of the Chinese Lantern Festival is a vibrant one with streets decorated in colorful lanterns as well as people feasting on eat sweet rice balls called tangyuan, watching dragon and lion dances, and setting off fireworks.
Most of these modern-day celebrations have roots in ancient Chinese traditions stretching back over 2,000 years to the start of the Eastern Han Dynasty.