How to Celebrate the Lantern Festival

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The Lantern Festival, also known as the Yuan Xiao Festival, welcomes the lunar year’s first full moon. It’s a dazzling holiday that wraps up Chinese New Year’s annual Spring Festival with a night of sparkling lights.

Lantern Festival

Mark Your Calendars
Lantern Festival 2024 is February 24, 2024. It takes place every year between February 5 and March 5 on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month.

Here’s a simple guide to the holiday that sends people back to their daily routines fortified by the Spring Festival’s good luck for the year ahead.


red-lanternThe Basics

The Lantern Festival celebration dates back some 2,000 years to lanterns hung in Buddhist temples by monks during the Han Dynasty. By imperial decree, temples, homes and palaces across China adopted the practice of hanging brightly-lit lanterns on the 15th night of the year’s 1st lunar month. Once the Lantern Festival passes, there’s no need to fear Chinese New Year taboos and it’s appropriate to take down Chinese New Year decorations.


red-lanternLantern Festival Traditions

Outside of China, you’re likely to see Lantern Festival celebrations in communities that also commemorate Chinese New Year. It’s common to see street festivals and toned-down versions of the giant outdoor lantern exhibitions found in cities across China. The Chinese words for the lunar year’s first month yuan and night xiao explain the Lantern Festival’s alternate name, the Yuan Xiao Festival.

How to Make Tang Yuan

The glutinous rice balls known as tang yuan are the Lantern’s Festival’s iconic food. These round balls, most commonly filled with sweet sesame or red bean paste, resemble the shape of the full moon and symbolize family togetherness and happiness. Read More »

Enjoy Magnificent Lantern Displays

Enjoy Magnificent Lantern Displays

It’s most fun to simply stroll the neighborhood at night taking in the lanterns displayed outside homes, arranged in parks and hung along streets. Red globes are most traditional, though you’ll see everything from geometric shapes to dragons and other animals.

Solve Lantern Riddles

Solve Lantern Riddles

Shopkeepers and other lantern owners attach paper slips to their lanterns with riddles written on them referencing Chinese poems or folk tales. If you’re clever enough to crack the code, you may win a prize.


red-lanternWhen is the Lantern Festival?

The Lantern Festival takes place every year between February 5 and March 5 on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month. There is no time off granted for the Lantern Festival.

Lantern Festival dates through 2026 are below.

Year Date
2015 March 5
2016 February 22
2017 February 11
2018 March 2
2019 February 19
2020 February 8
2021 February 26
2022 February 15
2023 February 5
2024 February 24
2025 February 12
2026 March 3

Your turn! Do you have any other questions about celebrating the Lantern Festival? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

HT: Photo by BoomsBeat.

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