Tradition lighting the way for Lantern Festival
Yuan Xiao Jie also known as The Lantern Festival which marks the end of Chinese New Year celebrations should not be confused with Mid-Autumn Festival popularly coined as Lantern Festival also. Yuan Xiao Jie falls on the 15th day of Zhengyue (first month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar) is also known as Chap Goh Mei (literally 15th evening) in Singapore. In China, it is also the Chinese Valentine’s Day.
There are many versions for the association of this day.
Version 1: The Lantern Festival
The story behind The Lantern Festival… Once, some hunters caught and killed an animal belonging to the Jade Emperor of China. Upon knowing the incident, the emperor got furious and ordered the whole town to be burnt to the ground. The princess heard of this and wittingly devised a rescue plan. Unable to defy her father, she went to look for the army general in charged. As the general also came from that town, he was grateful to be involved in the conspiracy. Together, they rounded the villagers and told them to hang lanterns everywhere. The general went back to the palace and told the emperor he had set the town on fire. The emperor saw the flickering lights swaying in the distant and was tricked into believing that the town was already on fire. The ploy had worked and till today, the Chinese honour the kind-hearted princess by hanging lanterns on this day every year. They also gather in gardens to admire lanterns and riddles associated with these handicrafts. The brightest lanterns were also symbolic of good luck and hope.
ersion 2: Yuan Xiao Jie
Traditional and modern Chinese families observe Yuan Xiao Jie by having a simple family gathering where the young and elderly meet for a bowl of Yuan Xiao ( as called by the northerners) or Tang Yuan ( as called by the southerners). Yuan Xiao is a savoury Chinese snack made of glutinous rice balls filled with minced meat and vegetables in broth while Tang Yuan is the sweet version commonly filled with walnuts, red dates, black sesame, red bean or peanut pastes. The more exquisite ones have osmanthus flower filling in light sugar syrup.
Originally known as Yuan Xiao named after a palace maid who made very good sticky rice ball snack during the Han Dynasty, the story goes like this…