Lantern festival is one of most important festivals in China. It comes directly after Two week Spring Festival that celebrates Lunar New Year. On last day or 15th day of Spring Festival Lantern Festival starts.
This year it falls on 11th February. History of festival dates from Han dynasty( 204Bc-221CE). Meaning and symbol of festival is related to Taoist tradition.Taoists call Lantern festival “Official of Light” who enjoys colorful and light objects in the dark. There are many ancient legends that speak about origin of Lantern Festival. One of them is related to Taoist God of Wealth-Tianguan whose birthday falls on 15th day of first lunar month. Sopeople light lanterns in every corner to show respect to Tianguan. Tianguan would see how they celebrate his birdthday when he sees lanterns and would bring good fortune. Another legend says that white crane came from heaven to earth and was killed by some villagers. Jade Emperor became too angry since it was his favorite crane and sent soldiers to burn village. Daughter of Jade Emperor decided to save village and told them to burn as much lanterns as possible so divine soldiers would think that village is already burning. When they saw so much light of lanterns they thought that village is already burnt. And third most famous legend is that in order to prevent God of Fire to burn village people had to prepare tangyuan( sweet dumplings) and light lanterns on the streets. It was supposed to make God of Fire happy and he wouldnt burn village. In folk tradition lantern festival is related to celebration of spring, family reunion and brightness. Folk communities used to pray to spring light and moon by setting more simple lanterns than those used at palaces and rich cities. All this is combination of todays meaning of lantern festival.
Since Spring Festival is beginning of spring Lantern festival celebrates spring, its light and full moon since on that eve first full moon in new year occurs. Burning lanterns is literally translated from Chinese as illuminating the future and giving birth. Lantern festival has aim to confirm prayers for good fortune, healthy and fruitful year, birth and light. Spring is associated with light, blooming and moonlight under clear sky. So in order to welcome it people used since ancient times . Therefore Lantern festival is combination of ancient legends and folk beliefs that is preserved in modern times.
Today lanterns are put in front of houses, on lampposts, streets , buildings and lakes. Lanterns bigger or smaller of various colors and shapes are put everywhere. It is really magic to see them. Most popular lanterns are of round shape since roundness represent togetherness. Brightest lanterns symbolize hope and good luck. Many lanterns are put to float in the air or on the river or lake in order to reach heaven and go with the flow. Also people prepare tangyuan a ball shapped dumplings made of rice flour with different feelings such as sugar, sesame seeds, peanuts, bean paste and other. They are eaten at dinner to symbolize family, unity, happiness and togetherness .
Also many people go to the temples to additionally pray.
In past matchmakers used to be very active and connect young couples since it was beginning of springtime a period when marriage was supposed to be done and under light of lanterns matchkaming occurred. Today matchmaking on Lantern Festival is common just in some rural areas but people celebrate it mostly with lanterns, eating dumplings, worshipping and spending time with families.