The Lantern Festival is a Chinese traditional holiday celebrated throughout China on the 15th day of the lunar calendar. It is also known as Yuanxiao Day. Yuanxiao Day marks the first full-moon of the Lunar New Year and the end of Spring Festival holiday. Across China, people celebrate the festival by hanging up lanterns, enjoying yuanxiao or sweet rice dumplings, guessing riddles hanging from lanterns, lighting off fireworks, and enjoying singing and dancing performances. What’s more, the Lantern Festival is also viewed similarly to Valentine’s Day. This is because in feudal society, though young girls were forbidden from going out freely on normal days, on the Lantern Festival they were invited out to watch the lantern show.
On February 19th, a large group of international students celebrated the festival in the Home for International Friends at PKU Shenzhen. The semester had just begun, and it created an energetic and fun atmosphere as many of the new exchange students had just arrived on campus a few days before.
To kick things off, Nathan Faber, International Affairs Coordinator at PKU Shenzhen, briefly introduced the Lantern Festival. Nathan also said that different cities in China have their unique way of celebrating the festival and add various stuffing in tangyuan. What we have here is the most common flavor, peanut and sesame, and if you ever travel around China, you might be surprised at other kinds of events like the Ice Lantern Festival and interesting stuffing like spice.
Next, Liu Jinghui, Party Secretary of University Town, pointed out that they helped design the Home for International Friends. All kinds of activities can be held here and Secretary Liu, together with all the social workers, will help organize these activities. At the end of his speech, he wished us a happy Lantern Festival and expressed his optimism of the long-lasting friendship between China and foreign countries.
After the speakers, the fun began. At one corner of the room, there was the riddle zone with English riddles that resembled the traditional game for the holiday. While waiting for the water for the tangyuan to boil, all students participated. Some of the riddles were easy like “How many sides does a circle have”, others were a little bit trickier like “With which hand do you write”. In order to find the low hanging fruit, students moved to the zone quickly right after the speeches, because those who solved the riddles correctly received a great prize.
After the riddle game, sweet rice dumplings were ready to enjoy so all the students sat along the table, enjoying the taste of yuanxiao and fruits. For some of the new arriving exchange students, it is the first time for them to have tangyuan, and it quickly became a very popular treat! One of them also said that she wanted to try different flavors of tangyuan after these.
The reason why tangyuan are round is that they represent the full moon on the Lantern Festival. Admiring the moon is another traditional activity that almost all Chinese take part in. In Guangdong, local people sometimes enjoy the view while barbecuing at the rooftop or anywhere that can see the moon more clearly. Moreover, January 15th of 2019 happened to be the day the moon is biggest and roundest of this year, so after the party, the warm Shenzhen night and bright moon made it an unforgettable holiday.
Written by Luo Jiechunyi
Photos by Luo Jiechunyi