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Yuan Xiao Jie: China alight
Yuan Xiao Jie: China alight

For over 2,200 years, people in China have said goodbye to the exciting Spring Festival with a celebration full of bright lights, colours and festivities known as Yuan Xiao Jie - translating to English as The Lantern Festival.

Taking place on February 11th in 2017, it is one of the most important dates in the Chinese calendar, and if you missed the main Chinese New Year celebrations or want to experience another part of traditional oriental culture, there are plenty of great reasons to attend.

A respected history
The Lantern Festival dates back to the Han Dynasty, which ruled China between 206 BC and 220 AD. Buddhism was growing popular in China during this time and the ruling class, wanting to spread the religion, ordered that on the 15th day of the first lunar month, lanterns would be lit to show respect for Buddha. Over the decades and centuries, the tradition became ever more popular and a permanent event in the Chinese calendar.

Lots of lanterns
The most important part of Yuan Xiao Jie is in its name - lanterns! In the weeks and months before the event, all across the country you can find stores and stalls selling beautiful lanterns of all shapes and sizes, which are released and enjoyed in different ways, depending on the location.

Chinese New Year Lanterns

Lanterns are strung from tree branches, floated on lakes, released into the air or held, all at once, creating a wondrous spectacle, wherever you might be visiting. Some are enormous, others are crafted into animal shapes and many feature homemade decorations and images that relate to the particular year or Chinese culture more generally. However, what they all have in common is their purpose – illuminating and ensuring a positive and successful year ahead.

Intriguing riddles
Originating during the Song Dynasty (960 to 1279), guessing the answers to riddles forms a big part of the festival. In the streets, lantern owners will often attach pieces of paper covered with riddles to them, which members of the public walking past then have to solve. If they get the right answer, the lantern owner awards them with a small prize, creating an enjoyable and inclusive street-side activity.

Delicious dumplings
If there is one dish that goes best with the Lantern Festival, it has to be Tangyuan. These sweet, glutinous rice dumplings are served everywhere during the celebration, featuring ingredients such as sesame seeds, walnuts, rose petals and sugar. Served in a fermented rice soup called tianjui, the round dumplings symbolise togetherness, and therefore eating them brings good fortune to the family.

It isn't too late to book a trip to China to enjoy the exciting Yuan Xiao Jie festivities, and there are a range of Kempinski hotels located throughout the country that you can book to stay at – click here to find your perfect accommodation.

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