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By Steve Chung


During the Chinese New Year, one of the celebrations is that of the lantern festival. Come let us find out the legend behind it.

Yuan Xiao is the Chinese lantern festival that is celebrated during the time of the New Year. Lantern is a significant symbol linked with the Chinese New Year. Yuan word is derived from the year's first month and word Xiao comes from the word night as referred to, by the Chinese people.

Fifteen days after entering the New Year, when the first full moon night is observed, the lantern festival is held that night. It is to celebrate the joyful environment when the first full moon of the New Year is seen shining brightly. Chinese people get together at the festival site and together they hold their lanterns up trying to constitute a beautifully lit up surrounding.

Chinese lanterns are very intricately designed. These items are not mere lighting objects but often have interesting puzzles made on them that might completely mesmerize you. Also rice balls are shared and eaten during this lantern festival with families and friends to mark the merry-making festival.

The origins of the lantern tradition

The legend that is most well-known linked with the Lantern New Year event is that, God Taiyi who reigned over the heavens in the ancient era was worshipedby the people in this festival. This is one of the many mythologies associated with the traditional New Year lantern festival.

Being the god of heaven it was believed that he controlled the entire luck of the human world. The authority to inflict punishment through natural disasters or medical epidemics was attributed to this god. The emperor who first started the tradition of holding a ceremony to please Taiyi was Qinshihuang. There ceremonies were held in order to gain the good pleasure of Taiyi and avoid the risk of natural disasters.

The New Year ceremony became very popular during Han dynasty as they got a great support from the ruler. However, later, king Wudi made this ceremony even more special and prominent so much so that the celebrations were night long and huge.

The story behind the lantern festival however had a different explanation too that said the Taoists influenced these celebrations. The fortune of the Chinese people was in the hands of the Taoist lord Tianguan, apparently, and he seemed to have taste for Chinese entertainment. Hence, the Chinese took to pleasing him by, celebrating on the streets and performing various performances to keep him happy.

There was another edge to this old history that said that the ceremony of lantern lighting was discovered by the ruler Mingdi. He was influenced by Buddhist preaching and also he had a dream that made him select the fifteenth day after the New Year date as the day of lantern lighting.

The lantern festival is one of the special events held as a part of the Chinese New Year celebrations no matter which part of the legend is genuine. These lanterns are interestingly designed with unique Chinese motifs.




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