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Chinese New Year Lantern

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Chinese Lantern Festival is called Yuan Xiao festival in China because the first lunar month is called yuan-month and in the ancient times people called night Xiao. The Lantern festival occurs fifteenth day after the first moon and is the first night to see a full moon. According to the Chinese tradition, at the very start of a new year, when there is a bright full moon in the sky, the presence of thousands of colorful lanterns hung out will make people cheerful. In China during the Lantern festival, people try to solve the puzzles on the lanterns and eat yuanxiao (glutinous rice ball) and get all their families and friends united in the joyful atmosphere.

There are many different myths about the origin of the Lantern Festival. According to one legend it was a time to worship Taiyi, the God of Heaven in ancient times.

The belief was that the God of Heaven controlled the fortune of the human world. He had the supreme power inflict drought, storms, famine or epidemic upon human race. Qinshihuang was the first emperor to order splendid ceremonies each year to please Taiyi and would ask Taiyi to shower favorable weather and good health to him and his people. Later, Emperor Wudi of the Han Dynasty directed special attention to this event. In 104 BC, he announced it as one of the most important celebrations and the ceremony that would last throughout the night.

Another myth associates the Lantern Festival with Taoism. Tianguan is the Taoist god responsible for good luck and fortune. His birthday falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month. It is said that Tianguan is fond of all types of entertainment. So followers organize various kinds of activities during which they pray for good fortune.

The third tale about the origin of the Lantern festival is associated with Emperor Mingdi. Buddhism first came into China during the reign of Emperor Mingdi of the Eastern Han Dynasty. That was in the first century. However, it did not have any great influence among the Chinese people. On one day, Emperor Mingdi dreamt about a gold man in his palace. But when he was about to ask the mysterious figure who he was, the gold man suddenly ascended to the sky and disappeared in the west. The next day, Emperor Mingdi sent a scholar to India on a pilgrimage to find out more about Buddhist scriptures. After traveling thousands of miles, the scholar finally returned with the scriptures. Emperor Mingdi ordered that a temple be built to house a statue of Buddha and which would serve as a store for the scriptures. Followers had faith that the power of Buddha can dispel darkness. So Emperor Mingdi ordered the folks of the country to display lighted lanterns during the fifteenth day of the lunar calendar.

The best part of the festival is a contest featuring decorative lanterns. These lanterns feature images of birds, ferocious animals and Chinese mythological figures. These lanterns are carried during the festivities and are hung on local temples. Besides entertainment and beautiful lanterns, another important part of the Lantern Festival is eating small dumpling balls made of glutinous rice flour known as Yuanxiao or Tangyuan. Thus, the lantern festival swathed in Chinese traditions and customs hopes for brightness for the coming year.

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