What’s not to love about a festival full of colourful lanterns and sweet treats?
Celebrated on the 15th day of the first lunar month, the Lantern Festival, also known as the Chinese Valentine’s Day, marks the end of the Chinese New Year. Falling on Saturday, February 8, the 2020 lantern festival will see shops, restaurants, shopping malls and parks decorated with colourful lanterns, making a dazzling backdrop for the first full moon of the Chinese calendar. From eating yuanxiao to enjoying lantern displays, here are the Lantern Festival traditions you should know about.
1. Enjoy lantern displays
In Chinese culture, lanterns represent hope, success and happiness. Every year, a lantern exhibition runs for a month at the Piazza of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui, by the Clock Tower. The theme varies from year to year, which involves mostly the Chinese zodiac animals and auspicious symbols such as goldfish, dragons and fruits.
On February 19, the Piazza will host a Lantern Carnival with a line-up of festive activities including lion and dragon dances, lantern-making workshops and live performances.
2. Guess lantern riddles
With a history of over 2,000 years, the Lantern Festival remains one of the most recreational among all the Chinese festivals. In the past, play on words and riddles are a favourite pastime for the ancient Chinese to pit their wits against one another.
This tradition has passed down to today, as people would guess the riddles hanging from the lanterns during the Lantern Festival. In some cases, the person who wants to answer the riddles can pull the paper and verify the answer for a small gift.
3. Watch lion dances
One of the most important traditional folk dances in Chinese culture, the lion dance is often performed in festive celebrations. A symbol of bravery and strength, the lion is believed to ward off evil and bring good fortune and safety to people.
4. Eat yuanxiao
The lantern festival is an occasion for reunions, as family members sit together to enjoy yuanxiao, or tangyuan (sweet glutinous rice dumplings) and appreciate the full moon. Typically filled with black sesame paste, peanut butter or sweet bean paste, the round shape of the dumplings symbolise wholeness and togetherness.
Whether you opt to prepare it at home or enjoy this festive treat at one of Hong Kong's best Chinese restaurants, these hearty rice balls are a satisfying way to round off the full moon night.