15 days after Chinese New Year
February 6, 2012
February 24, 2013
Experience is a comb nature gives us when we’re bald.
— Chinese Proverb
If you thought Chinese New Year was big this year, guess what:
It ain’t over.
Chinese New Year celebrations last for 15 days, right up until the first full moon of the year. The fifteenth night of the first lunar month, and culmination of the party, is the Lantern Festival.
There are many stories about the festival’s origin. According to one legend, a coastal village came under attack by ship. The villagers ran up to the mountains to hide. When the attackers moved on, a villager remaining in town lit up a sky lantern to signal to the villagers in the mountains that it was safe to come down.
Another legend says that the Jade Emperor in Heaven planned to unleash a fire of vengeance upon a town that had killed his favorite Goose. A fairy, hearing of the plan, warned the townspeople to light a bevy of lanterns on that day. From Heaven it appeared the town had already been set ablaze, and the Jade Emperor did not destroy it.
Moral of the story: do not mess with a Jade Emperor’s Goose!
People across China and Taiwan greet the first full moon of the year by creating their own short-lived Milky Way. Thousands of Sky Lanterns are released into the sky, in one of the most spectacular sights of the new year.
Before sending one’s sky lantern up into the heavens, it’s good luck to write a wish or prayer on the lantern or on a piece of paper inside it. The higher the wish and lantern ascend the more good luck they are believed to bring.
The Taiwanese word for Sky Lantern–Tian Ding–means “having a baby boy.”
The festival is called Yuan Xiao in Chinese. Yuan Xiao is also the name of the little glutenous rice-flour dumplings consumed in mass quantities on this day.