The Lantern Festival closes the New Year festivities. This holiday evolved from ancient Chinese beliefs that celestial spirits could be seen flying about in the light of the first full moon of the lunar calendar. To aid them in their search for the spirits, they used torches. These torches gave way to lanterns of every conceivable size, color,and shape. Now, the Lantern Festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month of the lunar calendar or March 4, 1996, for this year.
The major part of the celebration is the display of colorful lanterns at most temples. A special feature of this holiday is the dragon dance. It is a most colorful event of hundred foot long dragons, lit with flashing eyes and bodies, pounding drums, cymbals, and brass instruments.
Like most Chinese festivals, this holiday has its own special food called "yuan shiao". These dumplings, which are made of rice flour, are round, symbolizing both the first full moon of the lunar new year and the complete family union so cherished by traditional Chinese. Many people still believe that they do not gain their one year in age until they eat their yuan shiao.
See also: Lunar New Year.