The Lantern Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the first Chinese lunar month, marking the last day of Chinese new year celebration. It is also the first full moon night in the Chinese calendar, marking the return of spring and symbolizing the reunion of family.
As early as the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 25), it had become a festival with great significance. One emperor heard that Buddhist monks would watch sarira, or remains from the cremation of Buddha’s body, and light lanterns to worship Buddha on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month, so he ordered to light lanterns in the imperial palace and temples to show respect to Buddha on this day. This Buddhist custom gradually became a grand festival among the people.
As China is a vast country with a long history and diverse cultures, Lantern Festival customs and activities vary regionally, including lighting and enjoying (floating, fixed, held, and flying) lanterns, appreciating the bright full moon, setting off fireworks, guessing riddles written on lanterns, eating tangyuan, lion dances, dragon dances, and walking on stilts.