This festival has been celebrated for over 2000 years already. It has also evolved to serve many purposes including society and family reunions and ancient spiritual traditions. Various activities are held in celebrating this day which include lighting lanterns, dragon dances, lion dances, eating rice balls, riddles, and moon gazing.
What is the First Full Moon Festival?
The First Full Moon Festival is always celebrated on the 15th day of the 1st month of the lunisolar Chinese calendar. This usually falls on February or March of the Gregorian Calendar. It is the last day of the traditional Chinese New Year celebrations. But this festival has become so important ever since the Western Han Dynasty. During the First Full Moon Festival, people usually go outside while carrying some paper lanterns that light up the dark night. They also enjoy doing some activities like riddle solving and more.
What is the history of First Full Moon Festival?
Emperor Wu’s Rule
The general consensus about the history of the First Full Moon Festival is that it began over 2000 years ago during the Western Han Dynasty. It was Emperor Wu who declared this day as the day of worshipping rituals for Taiyi, who is believed to be one of the sovereigns of the universe.
Emperor Wen’s Rule
After his rule came Emperor Wen. It was a violent time before Wen’s rule that it why to celebrate the return of peace, he declared the 15th to be a national holiday. During this day, all households should light lanterns and candles. This became known as the Nao which means fun, wild, and excitement.
Emperor Ming’s Rule
The later Eastern Han was ruled by Emperor Ming. He was a devout Buddhist. He heard that on the 15th, monks should light candles for Buddha. He ordered to temples and palace to light candles. He also ordered the citizens to hand lanterns.
Eventually, this tradition continued even up until this day. This even is what we now know as the First Full Moon Festival or more commonly, the Lantern Festival.
When is the First Full Moon Festival?
The Lunar Calendar dictates that the First Full Moon Festival takes place on the 28th of January. But in the Gregorian Calendar, the date varies. The First Full Moon Festival 2021 was celebrated last February 27, 2021. The next one will be held on February 8, 2021.
What is the importance of First Full Moon Festival?
Apart from being an important tradition that has been passed through generations, the First Full Moon Festival is also important because it is a celebration for everyone. This event can be celebrated by all people regardless of how old they are or what their gender is. They all go out to the streets to celebrate. The festival has also become a symbol of unity, reunion, freedom, and socialization.
The festival is also important because of some religious reasons. It was an important activity for the ancient Chinese paganism, modern day Buddhism, and ethnic minority cultures.
How to Celebrate First Full Moon Festival?
Various activities can be done to make the celebration of the First Full Moon Festival as fun as possible. The following are the usual activities conducted during this day.
Exercising the Mind with Lantern Riddles
During this day, Chinese people often go out together with their friends where they write poetry and drink wine. This was a tradition carried over from the ancient times. While bonding together, they play with words and riddles. Riddles were their favorite pastime.
Hence, during the festival, people tend to write riddles on their lanterns. This is a popular game for everyone. Some riddles can be obvious to answer. But most are actually tricky that you need to think outside the box and also think critically to be able to answer the questions.
Getting Amused with the Dragon Dance
Another staple activity during this day is the dragon dance. This has been embedded not only in the First Full Moon Festival but also in many Chinese celebrations. You can get amused with how people dress themselves in the dragon costume and make elegant movements and dances to the beat of the cymbals and drums.
Listening to the Beat of the Lion Dance
Apart from dragon dance, the lion dance is also another staple entertainment during Chinese celebrations. Apart from this festival, lion dances are also performed in store openings and weddings. When this is danced, people inside demand food and red pockets and grab those as if they were eaten by the lion. There are also times when the choreography involves them rolling around.
Watching Stilt Performances
Stilt performances in China have been around for a very long time already. They rooted from Chinese opera wherein performers dance and sing while they are on stilts. Depending on the character that they are playing, there are different heights and costumes.
Why Light the Lanterns During the First Full Moon Festival?
From the name of the festival, you can already tell that lanterns are the most important part of the festival. During the early days, the festival was held whereinin people gather in their backyards and give offerings to the gods. They lit lanterns as part of this activity.
Over time, various kinds of lanterns have been invented. Some of them can be as small as the size of our palm while others can be as large as parade floats. People can also make their lanterns personalized by painting those on their own.
People also used lanterns to signify that they are sage. Lanterns were even used as gifts to newlywed couples. Pregnant women also receive small lanterns along with good health and safety of the mother and the child.
And now, the celebration of the First Full Moon Festival always involves lanterns.
What are Foods Eaten During the First Full Moon Festival?
Various foods are eaten as part of the celebration of this festival. The main trademark food is the xiao which is a delicious Chinese dessert for the New Year. Other staple foods include rice dumpling which are filled with sweet syrup, black sesame paste, red bean paste, and more. The rice dumplings can either be fried or steamed. They can also be served in hot water or already boiled.
Facts About the First Full Moon Festival
- The First Full Moon Festival is always celebrated on Lunar New Year’s 15th day. This is also the day when the first full moon appears.
- Red lantern is a symbol of good luck and hope. The tradition of releasing red in the sky signifies that people should let go of their past, become better versions of themselves, and embrace their new identities in the new year.
- Solving lantern riddles is yet another staple activity during the festival. Riddles are usually written in notes that are attached to the lanterns.
- The rice ball, a very famous food for this celebration, resembles the shape of a full moon. It is also a symbol of family unity. It can be made custom by including fillings like beans and nuts.
- During the early days, the First Full Moon Festival was actually a day wherein women were allowed to go out and social with their suitors. For this reason, another name given to the festival is Chinese Valentine’s Day.
- There are some things people think to bring bad luck during the Chinese New Year holidays which includes using scissors, breaking equipment, visiting the hospital, and a crying child.
- This festival gives opportunity for families to unite together. Those who are leaving far apart can consider this day a good one where they can see each other again.
- Though the First Full Moon Festival is primarily celebrated in China, more and more countries are also starting to adapt this celebration.
- Greeting for the day: Happy Lantern Festival! 元宵节快乐！