One of the oldest nations in the world is China. No one knows exactly how old she is, but the estimates run from as few as 5,000 years to 10,000 years old. Throughout her millennia of development, her history and culture grew into the traditional lives that we see today. Her festivals are filled with the never-ending noise of firecrackers and the bountiful tables full of delicious foods to eat.
One of the most amazing celebrations that the Chinese have is the beautiful Lantern Lighting Festival. If you want to participate in this festival, the first thing you must do is get yourself Chinese lantern flying lanterns and get ready for some fun. Imagine the tongues of little tiny flames reflecting their light in the sky like little yellow stars. The sight of these little paper lamps floating in the darkness is one of the first signs that Spring is in the air.
The Lantern Festival falls on the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese calendar and is a signal to the world that the cold, wet and bitter weather of the winter is now fading away. No one is completely sure about the origin of why they light these beautiful paper lanterns, but the legend goes something like this.
A mortal man accidentally kills a sacred bird. In retaliation the God of heaven ordered that on a specific day everything on the earth should be burned and killed. The daughter of the god of heaven secretly warned mankind. On the day that the order was to be fulfilled, the people were all instructed to set these paper lanterns on fire. When the god of heaven looked down upon the earth and saw all the flames, he believed that the people had been destroyed, and so he did not carry out the order.
Each year on that date, the people re-enact that fateful night. Thousands of years later, the festival runs for three days and is accompanied by the abundance of food and the noisy firecrackers constantly going off to frighten away evil spirits.
The stories abound in regards to this mythical holiday, but the Chinese relish the occasion with eager anticipation. During this Festival you will see their famous Lion and Dragon dances. These feats of skill and technique are thought to symbolise bravery and strength so that they could ward away evil spirits that might be lurking around.
The whole affair is full of excitement and enthusiasm. Whatever the Chinese are doing when the Lantern Festival begins, they usually just stop, and for the next three days they will celebrate with all kinds of activities, including their famous Dragon and Lion dances.
So, no matter what you want to celebrate, the Lantern Festival is one of those experiences that can figuratively transport you back in time to the legendary days of “the Middle Country,” as the Chinese call their home. Take with yourself the Chinese lantern flying lanterns and go out and join the fun. Chinese people actually love it when outsiders join them in their celebrations. You may not fully understand what is going on, but you will certainly cherish the experience for years to come.
Dorothea Bryant is a freelance writer who remembers fondly the experiences she had while living in China. She especially enjoyed watching the Lantern Festival and the Chinese lantern flying lanterns lighting ceremonies. She passes on cultural information that can be of interest to all sorts of people in an effort to get people to love the culture as she does.