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 estimated 2,000-year history, this year today is when you can say ‘Happy Lantern Festival’ (yuanxiaojie kuaile) to everyone around you.
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down and all the Spring Festival taboos such as ‘no black or white clothes’ and ‘no lending or borrowing money’ are no longer applicable.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.
Customs and traditions range from setting off fireworks to stilt walking and working out the riddles written on various lanterns. The lighting of lanterns is the main activity performed during 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 also 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...
Photograph: Chi Pham via Unsplash
Eating tangyuan (sweet ball-shaped dumplings) that symbolise wholeness and togetherness. If making your own is too much of a hassle, there’re a couple of places to get your tangyuan fix around town. Our favourite is the crab flavoured tangyuan made by popular dessert shop Wang Jia Sha. The brand sells more than 6,000 packages of handmade tangyuan a day with crab its bestseller. Expect to be queuing for a while to get a taste of these. We can also vouch for the tangyuan at Meixin on Shaanxi Bei Lu. Opt for the pork filling and you won't regret it.
📍Wang Jia Sha, 805 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Shimen Yi Lu.
📍Mei Xin, 105 Shaanxi Bei Lu, near Weihai Lu.
Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe
Garden (above) is an extremely popular spot during Lantern Festival. It's decorated with an array of beautiful lanterns and lights, but be warned, it gets extremely busy. This year, the display will run until next Monday (March 1; open every day from 4-10pm). The standard price is 50RMB for adults and 30RMB for kids over one metre, however tonight it's 80RMB for adults and 50RMB for kids. You'll need to bring your ID card or passport and enter through Gate 2 on Yuyuan Xin Lu, Gate 3 near Shanghai Classical Restaurant or Gate 5 on Bailin Lu. Click here to purchase tickets online and skip the lengthy wait.
📍Yuyuan Gardens, 279 Yuyuan Lao Jie, near Fangbangzhong Lu.