5 things you didn't know about Lantern Festival

Where to go to see some stunning lights this week

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

What is it?

Held annually on the 15th day of the first Chinese lunar month (generally between February 5 and March 7), Lantern Festival (yuanxiaojie, 元宵节) marks the end of the Spring Festival. A celebration with an approximate 2,000-year history, the date to be saying ‘Happy Lantern Festival’ (Yuanxiaojie kuaile) this year is Tuesday 19 February.

Why is it important?

It signifies the end of all Chinese New Year celebrations. New Year’s decorations must be taken down and all the Spring Festival taboos such as ‘no black or white clothes’ and ‘no lending or borrowing money’ are no longer applicable. Another of the taboos is ‘no killing’. We’d recommend sticking to that one all year round, to be fair.

How is it celebrated?

Customs and traditions range from setting off fireworks to stilt walking to trying to work out the riddles written on the various lanterns. The lighting of lanterns is the main activity of the festival and is a way for people to express their best wishes to loved ones and pray for healthy, trouble-free futures. It is said that women hoping to become pregnant in the year ahead should walk under a lantern and pray for a child. So that’s where babies come from…

The best tradition is


Photograph: Chi Pham via Unsplash

Eating tangyuan. These sweet ball-shaped dumplings symbolise wholeness and togetherness.

Where to experience it


Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Yuyuan Garden (above) is an extremely popular spot during Lantern Festival. It gets done up with an array of beautiful lanterns and lights, but be warned, it gets extremely busy. Expo Park in Pudong and Guyi Gardens in Jiading district are also worth checking out, but again, expect big crowds.

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By: Victoria Brownlee