The Lantern Festival (元宵节) is on the 15th day of the first month of the Lunar Year, taking place under a full moon, and marks the end of Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) festivities. For the year of 2007, it is today – the 4th of March. It is said that the Festival dates back to shrouded legends of the Han Dynasty over 2000 years ago.
The important festivity for this day is watching lanterns of numerous kinds, and “Guessing lantern riddles” is an essential part of the Festival. People write riddles on a piece of paper and post them on the lanterns (or write them directly on the lanterns). Visitors who work out the solutions to the riddles can tear it off (or remember the numbers) and take it the lantern owners to check their answer. Sometimes, if the solution are right, they will be given a little gift.
The special food for the Festival is Yuan Xiao (元宵) or Tang Yuan (汤圆), or rice dumplings. Yuan Xiao are balls of glutinous rice rolled around a filling of sesame, peanuts, vegetable, or meat. Yuan Xiao can be boiled or fried. Tang Yuan are often cooked in red-bean or other kinds of soup.
It is said that the custom of eating Yuanxiao originated during the Eastern Jin Dynasty in the fourth centuty, then became popular during the Tang and Song periods. The round shape symbolizes wholeness and unity.
Note: Some photos are from http://www.pingtan.com.cn/.