Today is Lantern Festival in China, the climax of 15 days Spring Festival (Chinese New Year). Old year’s eve two weeks ago seems ages for many due to the overwhelming virus outbreak and 100’s of millions of people have been confined at their homes. The Spring Festival this year has been a household turnout instead of a grand family gathering paying respects and visits all around.
The ancient Lantern Festival holds the first full moon of the New Year and is usually packed with traditions as lighting up lanterns, lantern riddles, eating sweet dumplings or lion dances.
The Festival can be traced back to 2,000 years ago and the most common belief is that at the beginning of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25–220), Emperor 漢明帝(Han ming di) was an advocate of Buddhism. He heard that some monks lit lanterns in the temples to show respect to Buddha on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month and since then he ordered all households, temples and the imperial palace to light lanterns on this special evening.
The lanterns often symbolize the people letting go of “their past selves” and “getting new ones” in the new year.
Yuánxiāo (元宵) or tāngyuán (汤圆) are glutinous rice flour dumplings commonly filled with sugar sweet pastes of black sesame, red bean, preserved fruits, crushed peanuts or chocolate. The dumplings are the traditional food for families during Lantern Festival. As Tangyuan is pronounced similarly to Tuanyuan (团圆, group round), which means the whole family gathering together happily, the round shape of the balls and their bowls symbolize wholeness and togetherness.
Disgracefully, the epidemic has also sparked an enormous outbreak of hypes, bashes, conspiracies, racism and straightforward hatred in mainstream media, social media and in the streets worldwide.
Let us please refrain today on Lantern Festival from this inhumanity and truly respect the millions of people out there in Wuhan, Hubei and all over China fighting with their lives to contain the virus. And remember the people passed away in this epidemic.
Light a lantern at your home today, a humble shine with great symbolism for humanity.