How to celebrate the Chinese Lantern Festival this weekend?

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Lantern Festival, or Yuan Xiao Jie 元宵节, is a traditional Chinese holiday celebrated on the 15th day of the first Chinese lunar month, and marks the end of the Chinese New Year period. It’s the first full moon in the Chinese calendar, honouring the return of spring, respecting deceased ancestors, peace, reconciliation and foregiveness, and this year it takes place this Saturday, 8th February 2020.

History

Steeped in over 2000 years of history, the festival has developed many meanings and significances over time: family reunions, respecting ancient spiritual traditions. Some even call it the “true” Chinese Valentine’s Day. It could originate as far back as the Han Dynasty (206 CE - 220 CE), where Buddhist monks would light lanterns in honour of the Buddha.

Celebrations

This festival is celebrated with many different activities, such as eating yuanxiao or tangyuan together, attending parades with lion and dragon dances, watching fireworks and gazing up at the full moon, but most importantly of them is, of course, lanterns!

Whilst this year is likely to be very different due to the ongoing coronavirus situation and restrictions on outdoor activities, usually you will see lanterns of all shapes and sizes decorating households, public spaces, shopping malls and streets all over China. They are decorated with traditional Chinese images and symbols, and some even have riddles on them, and those who solve the riddle win a prize.

So what can you do to celebrate the Lantern Festival this year from inside your home?

How about making some of your own paper lanterns and handmaking yuanxiao or tangyuan to eat with your loved ones!

Yuanxiao 元宵 vs. tangyuan 汤圆?

Both are delicious, traditional dumplings with a variety of fillings eaten at Lantern Festival, but have subtle differences in the way they are made, filled, cooked and stored. However, both are perfect to be shared with the family, and they symbolise family harmony and happiness. It’s said that their round shape represents the full moon that you experience on this day and it’s a tradition to express best wishes for their family and the future before eating.

These dumplings are made from glutinous rice flour and are stuffed with various sweet fillings such as white sugar, brown sugar, bean paste, walnuts, jujube paste, sesame seeds and nuts. They can be fried, boiled or steamed, and are served in a fermented rice soup called tianjiu甜酒.

Carrefour, WalMart etc), here’s a step-by-step guide for how to make Yuanxiao Dumplings for Chinese Lantern Festival: https://www.thespruceeats.com/yuanxiao-chinese-dumplings-recipe-694274

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So get your creative and culinary juices flowing, decorate your home, eat some delicious food and have a happy Lantern Festival! 元宵节快乐!Yuánxiāojié kuàilè!

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