Lantern Festival 元宵节 [yuán xiāo jié]

Yuan Xiao Festival, also know as the Lantern Festival, falls on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar. It marks the final day of the Chinese New Year celebrations. For 2023, it is on February 5th.

As China is a vast country with a long history and diverse cultures, Lantern Festival customs and activities vary regionally including lighting and enjoying (floating, fixed, held, and flying) lanterns, guessing riddles written on lanterns, appreciating the bright full moon, setting off fireworks, eating tangyuan 汤圆 or yuanxiao 元宵, lion dances, dragon dances, and walking on stilts.


In ancient times, the lanterns were fairly simple, and only the emperor and noblemen had large ornate ones. In modern times, lanterns have been embellished with many complex designs. For example, lanterns are now often made in the shape of animals. The lanterns can symbolize the people letting go of their past selves and getting new ones, which they will let go of the next year. The lanterns are almost always red to symbolize good fortune.

Tangyuan or Yuanxiao

Eaten during the Lantern Festival, tangyuan 汤圆 (Southern China, Taiwan and Southeast Asia) or yuanxiao 元宵 (Northern China), is a glutinous rice ball typically filled with sweet red bean paste, sesame paste, or peanut butter. Actually, tangyuan is different from yuanxiao due to different manual making and filling processes. However, they are very similar in shape and taste, so most people do not distinguish them for convenience and consider them as the same thing. The Chinese people believe that the round shape of the balls and the bowls in which they are served symbolize family togetherness, and that eating tangyuan or yuanxiao may bring the family harmony, happiness and luck in the new year.