Candle Lit Lanterns floating on a river for the Chinese Lantern Festival

The Lantern Festival

The Lantern Festival is celebrated on the first full moon of the Lunar New Year. It signifies the end of the Lunar New Year celebrations and the beginning of Spring. This year it is celebrated on the 5th of February 2023. It is a time to honour ancestors that have passed before and to celebrate family, love, peace and togetherness.
Its origin dates back more that 2000 years where there are two popular stories surrounding it's heritage

Han Dynsaty (58-75 CE)

As Buddhism was gaining popularity all across China, Buddhist monks would light lanterns to honour him. The general public saw them do this and began lighting their own lanterns each year. The festival grew traction and the celebrations increased and gave us the Lantern Festival we know today.
Buddha Statue lit by candlelight
 Image by Rajat Verma, Unsplash

The Jade Emperor

There is a story about a trick that was played on the Jade Emperor one day. He was angered because someone had slaughtered his favourite goose. He was so irate that he told his soldiers to burn the village down in the valley. The villagers were tipped off and decided to light red lanterns and set off firecrackers to fool the Jade Emperor into believing that the village was already on fire. The trick worked and he did believe that the village was already burning. The villagers were so happy that they marked the date and celebrated every year. (I wonder what the Jade Emperor thought when he woke the next morning and saw the village wasn’t burned down though!)
 Black Sky lit with hundreds of orange sky lanterns
Image by Melanie Magdalena, Unsplash

A Celebration of Romance

The Lantern Festival is also considered to be the original Valentines Day. In ancient China, unmarried women were not permitted to leave the house on their own. The Lantern Festival was an exception and they were allowed to enjoy the festivities and meet with unmarried men to court.
Two Asian Women place lotus lanterns to float on a river for The Lantern Festival
Image by Dan Ma, Unsplash

What Happens at the Lantern Festival?

The main activity for the Lantern Festival is lighting lanterns at home, outside and all over towns and cities. The main colour for lanterns is red but modern lanterns come in all different shapes and sizes. Riddles are written and stuck to hanging lanterns and the person that is able to solve the riddles usually wins a small prize.
 Hundreds of hanging lanterns of all different shapes, sizes and colours. Photo is taken from underneath the lanterns
Image by Note Thanun, Unpslash
Dragon or Lion dances are performed. These are wonderfully colourful displays of dance and acrobatics to the beat of traditional drums and cymbals. They provide entertainment, bring good luck and prosperity and ward off evil spirits. If you are ever able to attend one, you will not be disappointed.
 Giant Chinese Lion puppet controlled by a person inside for the Lion Dance celebrating the Lantern Festival
Image by Kelvin Zyteng, Unsplash
Gatherings. As with many Asian celebrations, family come together to celebrate with food. Traditionally, glutinous rice balls are eaten. The round balls or dumplings are often filled with a red bean or black sesame paste and are delicious. The shape of the balls signifies reunion and wholeness of family.
 Three Round glutinous rice balls in a thin clear soup in white bowl. One ball is on a gold spoon.
Image by Shiyun, Unsplash
Fireworks light up the skies and the whole event is a magical display, one not to be missed if you get the chance to experience it.
Image by Ray Hennessy, Unsplash
 Thanks for taking the time to read about The Lantern Festival. I hope you enjoyed it! If you would like to get in touch, you can contact me at
You can also follow me Instagram at or Facebook at AmyHoAsianInspiredArt
Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.