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Time for some light entertainment

( China Daily )

Updated: 2019-02-18

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Time for some light entertainment

A local troupe performs a fire dragon dance in a shower of molten iron sparkling like fireworks at the Wuhan Happy Valley amusement park in February 2018. [Photo by XIONG QI/XINHUA]

As the first full moon of the new year approaches, China prepares to celebrate Lantern Festival, Li Yingxue reports.

Lantern Festival, or yuanxiaojie in pinyin, which comes on the 15th day of the first lunar month, is the first festival after the celebration of Lunar New Year in China.

The tradition dates back to more than 2000 years ago - during the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) when Buddhism was flourishing in China. Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) ordered that lanterns be lit in the imperial palace to worship and show respect for Buddha.

During the reign of Emperor Yang of the Sui Dynasty (581-618), a large-scale gala with thousands of people was held over the course of the night to celebrate Lantern Festival.

The tradition of lighting lanterns gradually became a civilian activity, and the lanterns are now made into different sizes, shapes and colors - but all have good wishes for the new year.

This year's Lantern Festival arrives on Tuesday. Besides being a time for families to gather once more, in the old days it was also the Chinese "Valentine's Day". In feudal society, most young women were not allowed to leave the house, but on Lantern Festival, all people could go out into the streets for the whole night to see the lanterns - it was a good opportunity for men and women to meet and fall in love.

Named yuanxiaojie, eating yuanxiao (glutinous rice balls with different fillings) is the most indispensable tradition during the day. While yuanxiao is made and eaten in northern China, people in southern China prefer to eat tangyuan, a similar food, but with a different preparation.

To make yuanxiao, the fillings are made and cut into small blocks first, and then tossed on a sieve with glutinous rice flour until it shapes itself into a ball.

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