Playing During the Lantern Festival 元宵节

The Chinese Lantern Festival(元宵佳节Yuánxiāo jiājié) has many names. It is also known as Shang Yuan Festival, or the Little New Year, as it marks the end of the celebrations stemming from the Chinese New Year(春节Chūnjié). The Lantern Festival takes place on the fifteenth day of the first Chinese lunar month, and the main activity of the festival is the creation and display of a multitude(a multitude of things or people is a very large number of them) of paper lanterns. These lanterns form the basis of some much-loved festival games.

Lantern Riddles

Most lanterns displayed during the festival will include lantern riddles. Lantern owners attach riddles to the lanterns for passers-by to read and guess at the answers. In keeping with tradition, the subjects of the riddles tend to be Chinese songs, poems, stories or events. If a person thinks they know the answer to the riddle, they can pull the paper from the lantern and bring it to the owner to give their answer. Those who guess correctly are usually given a small gift. The tradition of guessing at riddles is encouraged because it fosters wisdom and creativity. Lantern riddle parties are occasionally held at various temples during the festival.

Matchmaking Games

The Lantern Festival is observed by other countries as well as China, and some of the traditional games have crossed over. One of these is the tradition of matchmaking on the night of the Lantern Festival, when young unmarried women flock with their lanterns to throw tangerines into the sea. Malaysian tradition states that by throwing the tangerines into the water, a woman is available for marriage. If the floating tangerine is picked up, the single woman who threw it is then destined to find a good husband.

Obscure matchmaking procedures are also followed, involving unmarried girls lingering around lanterns in the hopes of attracting a husband. Historically, the Lantern Festival was one of the rare nights of the year when there was no curfew for young women. Matchmakers roam the streets, attempting to pair up single men and women who are out all night. One superstition even recounts women pulling up vegetables from the gardens of strangers, perhaps in a bid to ensure fertility(land or soil that is fertile is able to support the growth of a large number of strong healthy plants).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *