The 15th day of the first lunar month. It is celebrated as the Yuanxiao Festival (First Full Moon Festival, Lantern Festival )(元宵節). As early as the Western Han Dynasty around 210 CE, the Yuanxiao Festival had become a significant festival. During the Yuanxiao Festival, people have fun at night carrying paper lanterns and solve riddles on the lanterns (猜燈謎). In 2023, the Yuanxiao Festival falls on Sunday, 5th February.
In the ancient days, young adults celebrated in the hope of finding loved ones. Matchmakers were busily pairing couples. In more recent times, it is touted as the Chinese Valentine’s Day.
Lanterns are used for decorations and they are always red in colour to symbolize good fortune. They can also be made in the shape of animals.
The following images show traditional lanterns in different shapes and designs in a long scroll painting circa 1486 CE (明宪宗元宵行樂圖卷).
People eat sweet glutinous rice balls, yuanxiao (元宵) also known as tāngyuán (湯圓), and enjoy a family reunion.
Famous Chinese poems related to the Yuanxiao Festival
At the Lantern Festival last year,
the fair was lit like a bright day.
In the night, he met me here,
the moon topping the willow tree.
At the Lantern Festival this year,
the same lanterns, the same moon,
where is the man I met last year?
My spring sleeves are tear-soaked.
(translated by Qiu Xiaolong (裘小龍)
Tune: “Green Jade Table”
Title: Chinese Valentine’s Night (First Full Moon of the Year) by Xin Qiji （1140 – 1207）
朱敏 (2006) 中國國家博物館 館藏文物研究叢書 繪畫卷 風俗畫 上海古籍出版社. ISBN 978-7-5325-4596-4/K.938
Qiu Xiaolong (2010) 100 Classic Chinese Poems 經典中國詩詞100首 East China Normal University Press. ISBN 978-7-5617-7366-6/I.651