Lantern Festival falls on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month, usually in February or March. Since the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 25), it has been a festival of great meaning for Chinese all over the world. The focus of the festival is on watching beautifully lit lanterns. Buddhism flourished throughout the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220). An emperor heard of a Buddhist monk practice of watching lanterns to worship Buddha on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month. He ordered lanterns be lit in the imperial palace and temples to show respect to Buddha on this day. Soon the practice became a grand festival among the people and spread across China.
Today, lanterns of various shapes and sizes are hung in the streets, attracting the admiration of onlokers. Families wonder the streets showing off their self-made or bought lanterns.
Telling lantern riddles is an essential part of the Festival. Lantern owners write riddles on a piece of paper and post them on the lanterns. If visitors have solutions to the riddles, they can pull the paper out and go to the lantern owners to check their answer. If they are right, they will get a little gift. The activity emerged during people's enjoyment of lanterns in the Song Dynasty (960-1279).
People eat yuanxiao, or tangyuan on this day. These are small dumpling balls made of glutinous rice flour with rose petals, sesame, bean paste, jujube paste, walnuts, dried fruit, sugar and edible oil as filling. Tangyuan can be boiled, fried or steamed. The taste is sweet and delicious. Tangyuan in Chinese has a similar pronunciation to reunion so people eat them as a symbol of unity, harmony and happiness for the family.
On the day of the Festival, performances such as a dragon lantern dance, a lion dance, a land boat dance, stilt walking and drum beating will be staged. At night, as well as the magnificent lanterns, fireworks are a regular feature. Most families have some leftover fireworks from Spring Festival and let them off at Lantern Festival. There are also firework displays put on by the city. Lantern Festival is a lively occasion where people become excited by the beautiful lantern lights, fireworks and bright full moon in the sky.