Lantern Festival 2022: Chinese celebration explained, traditional food, origins – and when is it this year?

Lantern Festival 2022: Chinese celebration explained, traditional food, origins – and when is it this year?

The Lantern Festival, also known as Yuanxiao Festival, is one of the most enchanting and colorful celebrations in Chinese culture. It marks the end of the Lunar New Year festivities and falls on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. This joyous event has a rich history and is filled with vibrant traditions, mouthwatering food, and captivating lantern displays.


The Lantern Festival is a time when communities come together to celebrate the first full moon of the lunar year. It holds great cultural significance and is a cherished tradition passed down through generations. During this festival, the night sky is adorned with countless illuminated lanterns, creating a mesmerizing spectacle for all to enjoy.

Origins of the Lantern Festival

A. Historical background

The origins of the Lantern Festival can be traced back over 2,000 years to the Western Han Dynasty. It was initially celebrated as a ritualistic event to pray for a bountiful harvest and ward off evil spirits. As time passed, the festival evolved, incorporating elements of folklore, mythology, and entertainment.

B. Legends and myths associated with the festival

One of the most popular legends associated with the Lantern Festival is the tale of Yuanxiao. According to this legend, there was a heavenly bird that accidentally flew to Earth and was killed by a hunter. In response, the Jade Emperor, ruler of the heavens, decided to set fire to the Earth on the fifteenth day of the lunar year. However, a wise man advised the people to light lanterns and set off fireworks to trick the Jade Emperor into believing that the Earth was already ablaze. This strategy worked, and the tradition of lighting lanterns on this day began.

Lantern Festival traditions

A. Lighting and displaying lanterns

The centerpiece of the Lantern Festival is the lantern itself. Lanterns come in various shapes, sizes, and colors, and are often adorned with intricate designs, calligraphy, and paintings. These lanterns are displayed in homes, streets, and public spaces, creating a magical ambiance. It is common for people to write their wishes or riddles on the lanterns before releasing them into the night sky.

B. Lantern riddles and games

Another beloved tradition during the Lantern Festival is solving lantern riddles. Riddles are written on pieces of paper and attached to lanterns. Participants must unravel the riddles to win prizes or simply enjoy the intellectual challenge. This activity adds an element of fun and friendly competition to the festival.

C. Lion and dragon dances

Lion and dragon dances are a vital part of the Lantern Festival. These energetic and acrobatic performances are believed to bring good luck and drive away evil spirits. Dancers dressed as lions or dragons move in sync with the beat of drums, cymbals, and gongs, captivating spectators of all ages.

Lantern Festival food

A. Tangyuan: Sweet glutinous rice balls

Tangyuan, also known as yuanxiao, is a traditional Lantern Festival delicacy. These sweet glutinous rice balls are typically filled with sesame paste, red bean paste, or peanuts. Tangyuan symbolize family togetherness and are enjoyed during the festival as a way of expressing good wishes for the upcoming year.

B. Yuanxiao: Another type of sweet dumpling

Yuanxiao, the namesake of the festival, is a round and sticky rice dumpling. These dumplings are usually filled with sweet fillings like lotus seed paste, red bean paste, or fruit. Eating yuanxiao during the Lantern Festival is believed to bring unity and harmony within the family.

C. Other traditional delicacies

In addition to tangyuan and yuanxiao, various other traditional foods are enjoyed during the Lantern Festival. These include spring rolls, sticky rice cakes, and longevity noodles. Each dish carries its own symbolic meaning and is an integral part of the festive culinary experience.

Lantern Festival celebrations around the world

A. Lantern Festival in China

In China, the Lantern Festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm in cities and rural areas alike. The most renowned celebration takes place in the ancient city of Pingyao, where the streets are adorned with massive lantern installations. The Lantern Festival is also a time for family reunions, with people traveling long distances to spend time together.

B. Lantern Festival in other Asian countries

The Lantern Festival is not limited to China; it is also celebrated in various other Asian countries with cultural ties to China. Countries such as Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam hold their own unique Lantern Festival traditions, incorporating local customs and folklore into the celebrations.

C. Lantern Festival in Western countries

In recent years, the Lantern Festival has gained popularity in Western countries as well. Major cities around the world host lantern exhibitions, parades, and cultural performances to showcase the beauty and diversity of Chinese traditions. These events provide an opportunity for people of all backgrounds to experience the enchantment of the Lantern Festival.

When is the Lantern Festival in 2022?

The date of the Lantern Festival varies each year as it follows the lunar calendar. In 2022, the Lantern Festival will take place on February 8th. This date marks the fifteenth day of the first lunar month and falls approximately two weeks after the Chinese New Year.


The Lantern Festival is a magical celebration that brings communities together to honor Chinese culture, folklore, and traditions. From the illuminating lantern displays to the tantalizing traditional food, this festival offers a sensory feast for all who participate. Whether you experience it in China, other Asian countries, or even in Western cities, the Lantern Festival is an unforgettable experience that showcases the beauty and diversity of Chinese heritage.