Lantern Festival 2018

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Today is Lantern Festival  元宵节. It falls on the 15th of the first month of the lunar new year i.e. the night of the first full moon. It marks the end of Chinese New Year celebrations. Traditional activities include admiring lanterns and the full moon, guessing lantern riddles, eating tangyuan (glutinous rice dumplings), enjoying lion dance and stilt-walking performances.

It is also considered a romantic festival because in the old days, young girls were not allowed to go out unchaperoned but on this festival, they were allowed to go out with their female friends. This allowed many romances to bloom when meeting young men under the guise of admiring the lanterns.

There is a famous Song dynasty poem  《青玉案·元夕》 about such a romantic encounter by Xin Qiji.

青玉案·元夕

(宋) 辛弃疾

东风夜放花千树,更吹落,星如雨。

宝马雕车香满路,凤萧声动,壶光转,一夜鱼龙舞 。

蛾儿雪柳黄金缕,笑语盈盈暗香去。

众里寻他千百度,蓦然回首,那人却在,灯火阑珊处。

One night's east wind adorns a thousand trees with flowers

And blows down stars in showers.

Fine steeds and carved cabs spread fragrance en route;

Music vibrates from the flute;

The moon sheds its full light

While fish and dragon lanterns dance all night.

In gold-thread dress, with moth or willow ornaments,

Giggling, she melts into the throng with trails of scents

But in the crowd once and again

I look for her in vain.

When all at once I turn my head,

I find her there where lantern light is dimly shed.

Source of English translation here

The poem set to music:

 

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