What is the Lantern Festival?
Chinese New Year
2013 was the Year of the Snake. 2014 is the Year of the Horse.
The Chinese New Year is a fifteen day celebration. The date of the New Year changes (due to the Chinese use of the lunisolar calendar), it may begin anywhere from January 21st to February 20th. For the year 2014, the New Year starts on January 31st.
Chinese New Year celebrations begin on the last day of the old year and go into the New Year. Celebrations include: family dinners, deep cleaning, decorating doors with red papers and lanterns, fire crackers, gifts of money in red envelopes, lion dancers and it all culminates with the lantern festival. On New Year’s Eve the family meets together for a large family dinner. Usually this time is used to honor deities and ancestors. On the following day (New Year’s Day), many deep clean their homes. It is believed that with the deep cleaning, one is sweeping away ill fortune to make way for good luck. The houses are also decorated at this time with red papers and lanterns. These symbolize wealth and longevity. Legend says that many years ago, at the beginning of New Year a beast named Nian descended upon the villagers eating livestock, crops and even humans. One day it was discovered that red frightened Nian and the beast would cease to pillage when it saw the color red near. This being the reason why red is the traditional color of the New Year. Throughout the New Year, lion dancers parade up and down the streets, dancing and beating drums. It is said that the loud drumming scares away the evil spirits.
But what about the lanterns?
Perhaps one of the most spectacular events of Chinese New Year is the Lantern Festival. This Festival is on the last day of the New Year and is an event that ends the Chinese New Year. The lantern festival is said to have originated from the torch festival. Long ago during the torch festival the villagers would hold torches and drive away the worm beast from the countryside. The worm beast took with it the pests thus ensuring a good harvest for the villagers. Today, all sorts of lanterns are lit, the most popular being red lanterns. Although specialty lanterns are created, and during the festival there may be a lantern contest in which these specially crafted lanterns are judged for their artisan and awards are given for the most appealing. During this festival a typical citizen is seen eating rice balls, enjoying a family reunion and gazing at the lanterns. On many of the lanterns there may hang a riddle. Typical riddles one may find on a lantern are this: What’s full of holes but still holds water? (a sponge), What building has the most stories? (a library). The entertainment is that you go about trying to solve the riddles. Children and adults alike enjoy this event.
If you're a teacher
In celebration of Chinese New Year, a classroom could easily recreate the lantern festival. Lanterns could be made and the students could research out a riddle and hang it from their lantern. While trying to solve each other’s riddles, a contest could evolve to celebrate the best decorated lantern.
However you choose to celebrate, take this time to learn about a different culture and to teach that being different is fun and exciting. In the words of the Chinese: “Gung Hei Fat Choi”, congratulations and be prosperous.
How to make a Chinese Lantern
You'll need the following supplies:
• small plastic container (recycle a cherry tomatoes container for example)
• tube of toilet paper roll
• red tissue paper
• mod podge ®
• construction paper (optional)
• small sharp scissors
• white glue
• glue gun
• gold acrylic paint
• gold wire
• pliers to cut the wire
• pliers to bend the wire
• golden ribbon
• golden ribbon with fringes
• LED candle (optional)
Cut a slice of 2.5 cm (1 in) of toilet paper roll with small pointy scissors.
Glue the slice of toilet paper roll to the bottom of the plastic container with the glue gun.
Note: if your container has a hole, glue the slice of toilet paper roll on a piece of construction paper on the bottom of the container.
Tear the red tissue paper into strips.
Brush the plastic container with Mod Podge and cover it completely with strips of red tissue paper.
Proceed the same way with the lid of the container
Take a golden metallic wire and cut a piece long enough to create a handle for the lantern.
Take the lid of the plastic container and, with a pair of small sharp scissors, make a small hole on either side of the lid.
Take the piece of metallic wire and bend one end and pass it through one of the holes in the lid.
Then, bend the other end and insert it in the other hole to form the handle of the lantern.
Take a 1 inch piece of narrow cardboard tube and paint it with gold paint.
Glue the golden ribbon with fringes all around the narrow tube with the glue gun.
Then, glue the tube with the fringes underneath the lantern with the glue gun.
Take a small LED candle; turn it on and place it in the cardboard ring on the bottom of the lantern.
Then put the lid of the plastic container back in place to obtain the complete lantern.
To finish the decoration, you can add a golden ribbon around the lantern.
If you wish, you can even paint the symbol of the year on one side of the lantern with gold paint.