The Lantern Festival (Chinese:元宵节; pinyin:Yuan Xiao Jie) is celebrated on the 15th day of the first month of the traditional Chinese calendar. As the first important festival after the Chinese New Year (Spring Festival; Chinese: 春节; Pinyin: Chunjie), it is also the first night to see a full moon, and it marks the end of the two-week New Year holiday period. The Confucius Education Center at Chief Sealth International High School hosted a Year of the Dragon Lantern Festival celebration Feb. 6 to let the community experience the customs first-hand.


During the Lantern Festival, people make lanterns and then hang them outside each house in order to help the dead to find their way or ward off evil spirits. Lighted lanterns of all shapes and sizes are displayed and carried through the streets in parades.

Guests at CIWA's Lantern Festival celebration learn to make paper lanterns.


The traditional food of the Lantern Festival is a dim sum dish called “yuanxiao” (Chinese: 元宵) or “tangyuan” (Chinese: 汤圆). These rice gluten balls are filled with some combination of nuts, sesame, dried fruit, flower petals, bean or jujube paste, minced meat or vegetables, and can be sweet or salty. The dumplings may be boiled, fried or steamed. This food symbolizes family and unity, making it an appropriate food for the festival. The word “tangyuan” is similar to another word, “tuanyuan”(Chinese: 团圆), which means reunion.

Chinese teachers demonstrate how to make “tangyuan."


Lantern Riddle-Guessing (Chinese: 猜灯谜; Pinyin: Cai Dengmi) is one of the most important and popular activities of the Lantern Festival. Lantern riddles are riddles written on the lanterns displayed during the festival. The riddles are pasted onto walls for public entertainment, or simply written for private amusement.


Children paste riddles written on red paper to the paper lanterns.

Historically, the subjects of the riddles were traditional songs, poems, stories or historical events. People enjoy the challenge of solving these riddles containing messages of unity and good fortune. The lanterns not only convey the meaning of the festival but over time have become a symbol of Chinese history and culture.


Visiting teacher Zhang Mingqiu (left) shows paper cutting

Visiting Chinese teachers Zeng Xilong (left) and Zhang Tingting share a snack.