A selection of the spectacular lanterns on display at Shanghai’s Yuyuan Garden. The annual show has been held for the past 26 years and is among the city’s top tourist draws during the Spring Festival period. 

Lantern Festival events bring friends and families together across the country in a unique celebration of culture and tradition marked by fascinating and imaginative illuminations, Xing Yi reports from Shanghai.

The Lantern Festival is one of the most important traditional festivals in China. Celebrated on the 15th day of the first lunar month and marking the end of the Chinese lunar new year holiday, it falls on Friday this year.

The Chinese name of the festival, Yuanxiao means the night of the first full moon in the Chinese calendar, and as the character yuan is homophonic to the word reunion, the festival also celebrates the reunion of family.

On the night of the festival, people will observe the moon, have a sumptuous meal, and enjoy time together with family and friends in parks or visit lantern displays with them.

The annual lantern show at Yuyuan Garden, a historical tourist site in Shanghai, started on Jan 28 and will run through February.

The annual celebrations have been held for 26 years and are the city’s top attraction for tourists during Spring Festival. The month-long celebration attracts around 1 million visitors every year.

Each year, the show will feature different themes based on major upcoming events and the latest trends. This year, large lighting installations featuring the ox, the Chinese zodiac animal for the lunar year, have been set up in the main plaza.

Lighting installations depicting Tian’anmen Square in Beijing, the red boat in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, and the Memorial of the First Congress of the Communist Party of China have also been set up on the facade of the Hua Bao Mansion to celebrate the centenary of the Party which takes place on July 1.

Lanterns with the traditional elements of the Yangtze River Delta, such as the Three Pools Mirroring the Moon in Hangzhou’s West Lake, stone bridges and carp balloons, have been installed along the lake under the famous Nine Zigzag Bridge to recreate the scene from the mobile game One Hundred Scenes of Jiangnan, which is popular in China.

Molly dolls, the toy series featuring a blue-eyed girl with curly short hair, created by Hong Kong designer Kenny Wong, have also been made into lanterns and displayed in the shopping mall. The dolls, promoted by toymaker Pop Mart, have become a craze among China’s youngsters in recent years, contributing to the company’s successful initial public offering in December.

The Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai has successfully attracted young people to participate in the celebration of the Chinese traditional festival. Last year, it partnered with Disney to put up Mickey and Minnie Mouse lanterns to celebrate 2020’s animal of the Chinese zodiac.

The traditional food for the festival is yuanxiao or tangyuan, which are similar ball-shaped dessert dumplings, made with glutinous rice flour and stuffed with a variety of fillings.

The difference lies in how they are prepared. In North China, people eat yuanxiao, which is rolled in a basket with solid fillings to become a big and round rice flour ball. In South China, people eat tangyuan, which is made of a glutinous rice wrapper that covers the filling before being kneaded into a round ball.

People visiting the lantern show in Yuyuan Garden have many food choices. Ningbo Tangtuan, a time-honored restaurant dedicated to making tangyuan, is located inside the Yuyuan Garden shopping mall, along with many other time-honored restaurants, such as Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant, Lu Bo Lang Shanghai cuisine restaurant and Song He Lou noodle shop.

Besides Yuyuan Garden, other famous lantern shows in China include the displays at Nanjing’s Confucius Temple, Jiangsu province, Xi’an City Wall, Shaanxi province and Zigong, Sichuan province.