Part of the lantern festival tradition involves a game to guess riddles attached to the lanterns.
The Lantern Festival has been part of Chinese New Year celebrations since the Han Dynasty.
It is said that the holiday evolved from an ancient Chinese belief that celestial spirits could be seen flying about in the light of the first full moon of the lunar calendar. To aid them in their search for the spirits, people used torches. These torches gave way to lanterns of every shape, size and color.
Despite the fact that most Chinese dynasties had curfews during the night, all the people were allowed to stay out on the days around the Lantern Festival. The Chinese women, who had to stay indoors for most of their lives, were permitted to admire the lanterns and the full moon on the day as well.
Therefore, it was almost the only time for young men and women to meet with each other and fall in love, according to experts.
The other evidence of the Lantern Festival being Chinese Valentine’s Day is recorded in Chinese literature. In the thousands of ancient poems passed on from the Tang and Song dynasties, many depicted ardent love for their partners.
Part of the lantern festival tradition involves a game to guess riddles attached to the lanterns. In the old days the riddles were literary allusions to the Chinese classics and so were mainly the preserve of the educated classes.
Like most Chinese festivals, the Lantern Festival has its own special food, called "yuanxiao" or "tangyuan". These are round, glutinous rice dumplings with sweet or saly fillings. The dumplings are said to symbolize both the first full moon and family unity and completeness.
Stilt-walking, drumming and dragon and lion dancing are all traditional forms of festival entertainment. In Asia, it is not uncommon to see processions of hundred-foot long dragons, lit with flashing eyes and luminous bodies, accompanied by pounding drums, cymbals and brass instruments.
Today, the connotation of love in the festival has been almost lost, as young couples could date whenever they want and women are no longer confined indoors. But the lantern shows remain the focus of the festival.