Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Yuan Xiao Festival

Ah, getting back to the current day and what's been going on in China, and mainly what's been going on in Xiamen. As Tina made sure to mention before, we were coming into the year of the rat, and as such everywhere that you go you will be reminded of such, much as it's hard to not realize that it's Christmas in the western world.
Part of the New Year is the Yuan Xiao Festival, which is on the 15th of the new year. We are told that this pretty much ends the New Year's celebrations. This is the first full moon of the year since the year started with the new moon, and the Chinese have been celebrating this night with a lantern festival since the Han Dynasty (206BC-221AD).
This year the Xiamen lantern festival included 114 different light installations, and luckily ran for a full month to give everyone a chance to see it. We went over last weekend instead of on the 15th (which was last Thursday, February 21st), but coming home that night traffic was extra slow and there were hundreds of people heading to the park.

More mice celebrating their year

One of two dragons on display, each over 60 meters in length
Head of the second dragon
More of the lantern festival
Wall of lanterns at the entrance
Yet another lantern display
And, of course, the Olympic display
The sheer size and quantity of all these displays was amazing, and there were thousands of people wandering around the park when we were there looking at it. There are also vendors selling all sorts of light-up toys and items like swords, devil horns, mice, and musical lanterns. Most everyone seemed to be buying something, we did not, but thought about getting a musical lantern because they played 'Jingle Bells'.
This view of the park is the best that we could get to try and show the overall size, the dragons are located on the lower right side of the photo.

The festival is also big with dumplings made from glutinous rice balls full of sugar or something, this is what is called yuan xiao or tang yuan, the first name being what the festival is called. And, as delicious as they sounded, we failed to make it out to a restaurant to try any...

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