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On the 15th day of Chinese New Year, it’s the Spring Lantern Festival.   As people eat yuan xiao or tang yuan (a kind of glutinous rice ball with or without fillings) on the Lantern Festival, it’s also called the Yuan Xiao Festival.

The Festival is probably originated in Han Dynasty when one of the emperors wanted to show respect to the Buddha and so he had ordered to light up the lanterns in the palace on the 15th day of Chinese New Year.  It gradually became a custom for the general public too.

Many families may light a red lantern at home and at night there will be lantern watching and lantern riddle quizzes guessing.  Chinese opera or even lion dance may be seen.

Back to the Glutinous rice balls.  It was one of my favorites festival food.  Mum will prepare the dough in the afternoon and we will help to make the balls and fill in with sweet fillings like red bean paste, sesame paste or even peanut butter. (I wonder if it will work with Nutella? <GRIN>) All the balls with then go into the pot with boiling water favoured with ginger and brown sugar.  When the balls float you know it’s cooked.  Mum always nags us to eat slowing and with the water because it is very sticky some young children may choke by that.

Celebrations Today

The Hong Kong government typically arranges a few carnival around the town to celebrate this Lantern Festival.  At the carnival, you will expect to see lots of lanterns (of course!).  You will also see Cantonese and Beijing opera which is a must in any traditional Chinese festival celebration.  One special thing about the Lantern Festival is that there will be lots of riddle quizzes tied to the end of the lanterns.  I presume it dates back to the old old days in China when that’s how the literate young guys show off their talent in front of other people and especially the ladies they fancy!  (Pure guess!)  It’s because in the old days, girls, especially rich people’s daughters are not allowed to run around the town.  Lantern Festival is one of the events they can go out and join in the celebration.  And that’s when other young guys can get to meet the ladies.  Therefore, the Lantern Festival is sometimes referred to as Chinese Valentine’s Day.

There will also be big displays of lanterns in some major parks or open space.  Popular places include the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Piazza and West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade.

Admissions to all these events are free.

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