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Yuanxiao Festival

Yuanxiao Festival, also known as Shang Yuan Festival, takes place on the fifteenth day of the first Chinese lunar month. It is also known as the Little New Year since it marks the end of the series of celebrations starting from the Chinese New Year. 
Yuan literally means first, while xiao refers to night. Yuanxiao is the first time when we see the full moon in the new year. It is traditionally a time for family reunion. The most prominent activity of the Yuanxiao Festival is the displaying of all types of beautiful lanterns. So the occasion is also called the Lantern Festival.


The Lantern Festival has its origin in the Han Dynasty. King Wen of the Western Han Dynasty officially designated the 15th day of the 1st lunar month as Lantern Festival, and during the reign of King Wu of the Han Dynasty, the Chinese began to celebrate this festival with lantern shows. During the Yongping reign of the Eastern Han Dynasty, King Ming, in an effort to promote Buddhism, ordered that lanterns be lit up in palaces and monasteries at night as tribute to the Buddha. Aristocrats and commoners alike were asked to hang lanterns at the front gates of their houses. Hence the name, Lantern Festival. The practice gradually became part of the Chinese folklore and is celebrated in pomp and pageantry. During the Song Dynasty, “yuan xiao”, a kind of dumplings made of glutinous rice flour were invented. Such dumplings are boiled in water until they float. They are made exclusively in celebration of the Lantern Festival, which is also called “Yuanxiao Festival”.

During this festival, red lanterns can be seen everywhere and fireworks displays shining in the sky. Children go out at night to temples carrying paper lanterns and solve riddles on the lanterns. Besides lanterns-appreciating and riddle-guessing, another important part of the Lantern Festival is eating small dumpling balls made of glutinous rice flour called Yuanxiao, which is a symbol of family reunion, unity, affection, and happiness. The fillings inside the dumplings or Yuansiao are either sweet or salty. Sweet fillings are made of sugar, Walnuts, sesame, osmanthus flowers, rose petals, sweetened tangerine peel, bean paste, or jujube paste. A single ingredient or any combination can be used as the filling . The salty variety is filled with minced meat, vegetables or a mixture.

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