BEIJING – People in Beijing braved the cold and morning snow on Tuesday to mark the end of Lunar New Year festivities with the Lantern Festival, a celebration involving dragons, dancers and lantern riddles.
Thousands of residents of Yufa in southern Beijing celebrated the festival at the Culture Square with traditional music and dance performances.
The performances included, ‘Wuchaozi’ a dance with plates more than 300 years old, and the ‘Chonggehui’ another dance form from the northern province of Hebei.
The Chonggehui dancers wore striking Chinese opera makeup and moved to complex steps with small children on their shoulders.
“I discovered this dance while I had a leg injury and was recovering at home. It was very useful for me,” Li Jinzhe, a young elite athlete who holds the Chinese long jump record (28 feet) and has been a chonggehui dancer for more than 15 years, told EFE.
“This is a fairly risky practice and requires a lot of training,” he added, although he admitted that it was not necessary to be a long jump expert to be able to perform this dance form that originated during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
The festival dates back to the times of the Han Dynasty (206-220 BC), and is also known as “Yuanxiao Jie.”
Although celebrations vary in different parts of the country, it is customary to eat ‘yuanxiao’ – also known as ‘tangyuan’ in the southern part of the country – which are glutinous rice balls stuffed with sugar, sesame or bean paste.
But the real stars of the festival are the innumerable red lanterns or ‘huadeng’ that come stuffed with riddles.
Lantern riddles are among the most popular activities during the festival, which also include enjoying the full moon, and colorful lighted lantern displays.
Millions of these lanterns light up major cities in the country at night.
Earlier, people also burst firecrackers; however, a ban in Beijing has diminished the scale of traditional festivities in recent years.
In Taiwan, people take out lantern processions and also launch thousands of red lanterns into the sky.
This celebration had, in the past, an undeniable romantic connotation because it was one of the few occasions during the year when young couples could walk around hand in hand.
The celebrations on Tuesday not just marked the end of one of the most important festivals in China, a country still rooted in its traditional culture despite rapid modernization, but also welcomed the first full moon of the Year of the Pig.