The 15th day of the 1st lunar month is the Chinese Lantern Festival because the first lunar month is called yuan-month and in the ancient times people called night Xiao. The 15th day is the first night to see a full moon. So the day is also called Yuan Xiao Festival in China.According to the Chinese tradition, at the very beginning of a new year, when there is a bright full moon hanging in the sky, there should be thousands of colorful lanterns hung out for people to appreciate. At this time, people will try to solve the puzzles on the lanterns and eat yuanxiao (glutinous rice ball) and get all their families united in the joyful atmosphere.
Chinese started to celebrate the Lantern Festival from the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 221 AD). Like most other Chinese festivals, there is also a story behind the Festival. It is also believed that the festival has Taoist origins.
This is a festival for people having fun. On the night of the festival, people go on streets with a variety of lanterns under the full moon, watching lions or dragon dancing, playing Chinese riddles and games, and lighting up firecrackers. There is really a lot of fun for the young and the old. The festival is not well celebrated in the US, though you may find celebrations in some Chinese communities, such as Hsi Lai Temple, Hacienda Heights, California.
Yuanxiao (glutinous rice ball) or Tangyuan is the special food for the Lantern Festival. It is believed that Yuanxiao is named after a palace maid, Yuanxiao, of Emperor Wu Di of the Han Dynasty. Yuanxiao is a kind of sweet dumpling, which is made with sticky rice flour filled with sweet stuffing. And the festival is named after the famous dumpling. Yuanxiao is sticky, sweet and round in shape, symbolizing family unity, completeness and happiness.