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  Lantern Festival falls on the fifteenth day

  Lantern Festival falls on the fifteenth day
of the first lunar month. This is the first full moon of the new year,
symbolizing unity and perfection. Lantern Festival is an important part of
Spring Festival , and marks the official end of the long holiday.



  There are many legends concerning the origins
of Lantern Festival.


  According to one legend, once in ancient
times, a celestial swan came into the mortal world where it was shot down by a
hunter. The Jade Emperor, the highest god in Heaven, vowed to avenge the swan.
He started making plans to send a troop of celestial soldiers and generals to
Earth on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, with orders to incinerate
all humans and animals. But the other celestial beings disagreed with this
course of action, and risked their lives to warn the people of Earth. As a
result, before and after the fifteenth day of the first month, every family hung
red lanterns outside their doors and set off firecrackers and fireworks, giving
the impression that their homes were already burning. By successfully tricking
the Jade Emperor in this way, humanity was saved from extermination.


  According to another legend, during the time
of Emperor Han Wudi of the Han Dynasty , a palace woman named Yuanxiao was
prevented from carrying out her filial duty of visiting her parents on the
fifteenth day of the first lunar month. Distraught, she said she would kill
herself by jumping into a well. In order to help Yuanxiao fulfill her duty as a
filial daughter, the scholar Dongfang Shuo came up with a scheme. He told
Emperor Han Wudi that the Jade Emperor, the highest god in Heaven, had ordered
the Fire God to burn down the capital city of Chang'an on the sixteenth day of
the first lunar month. Anxious to find a way to save his city, the emperor asked
Dongfang Shuo what he should do. Dongfang Shuo replied that the Fire God loved
red lanterns more than anything. He advised that the streets be hung with red
lanterns, and the emperor, empress, concubines, and court officials come out of
the palace to see them. In this way, the Fire God would be distracted and
disaster averted. The emperor followed Dongfang Shuo's advice, and while
everyone was out viewing the lanterns, Yuanxiao was able to sneak out of the
palace and be reunited with her parents.


  Although the above stories are quite
fantastical, it is sure that the origins of Lantern Festival are related to
ancient humanity's use of fire to celebrate festivals and avert disaster. Since
Lantern Festival involves making offerings to the deities and is celebrated at
night, it is natural that fire would play an important role. Over time, Lantern
Festival gradually evolved into its present form. When Buddhism was introduced
to China during the Eastern Han Dynasty , the emperor decreed that on the night
of the full moon of the first lunar month, lanterns should be lit to honor
Buddha, adding yet another level of significance to Lantern Festival. And
according to Daoism, Lantern Festival is associated with the primordial deities
of Heaven and Fire, who were born on the fifteenth day of the first lunar


  Eating yuanxiao (sweet dumplings made with
glutinous rice flour) is one of the special traditions of Lantern Festival.
Lantern Festival is also called Yuanxiao Festival. Another name for yuanxiao is
tangyuan, which literally means "boiled spheres."



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