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Lantern Festival experience in Kunming 2005

February 24, 2005

The Lantern Festival, marking the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations, falls on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month, usually in February or March in the Gregorian calendar (February 23 this year). As early as the Western Han Dynasty, it had become a festival with great significance.

There are many different beliefs about the origin of the Lantern Festival. But one thing for sure is that it had something to do with religious worship.

Today, the displaying of lanterns remains a big event on this carnival-like festival. Traditionally, flower markets, restaurants, homes and parks are filled with colorful lanterns in traditional designs (various shapes and sizes), attracting countless visitors. Extremely excited children hold lanterns to stroll with on the streets for fun. Popularly referred to as Chinese Valentine's Day somewhere in China, singles gather to play matchmaking games with the lanterns, to determine who will be their lover.

"Guessing lantern riddles" is an essential part of the Festival. Riddles are written on a piece of paper and posted on the lanterns. If visitors crack the riddles, they will get a small gift. As riddle guessing is interesting and full of wisdom, it has become popular among all social strata. When I was a little boy, I enjoyed riddle-guessing immensely and I was quick to find right answers to riddles of Chinese characters. I once solved a tough riddle of " a lonely woman in a rainy spring" for a Chinese character, and the right answer is the Chinese character of "one"- what is left from that of "spring" with both the "sun" and "husband" absent!

Eating the rice dumplings (called "yuanxiao" or "tangyuan") is another tradition on the day. That is why the festival is also known as the "Yuanxiao Festival." The small dumpling balls are made of glutinous rice flour with rose petals, sesame, bean paste, jujube paste, walnut meat, dried fruit, sugar and edible oil as filling - boiled, fried or steamed. A recent TV commercial even promotes iced "tangyuan"! "Tangyuan" in Chinese has a similar pronunciation with "tuanyuan", meaning reunion. So people eat them to denote union, harmony and happiness for the family.

For a colorful night, in addition to magnificent lanterns, fireworks form a beautiful scene. Most families spare some fireworks from the Spring Festival and let them off in the Lantern Festival for the "last craze".

Fortunately we "previewed" a full and shining one in the sky the day before yesterday. Though a full moon was missing yesterday due to a gloomy weather, the magic lights on the Oriental TV Tower plus imposing fireworks got us intoxicated!

From: MSN Live

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