As is the case with most Chinese festivals, there’s an intriguing legend behind the famous Lantern Festival. It’s the Legend of Yuanxiao. Yuanxiao was said to be a beautiful maid in an emperor’s palace. Despite her opulent way of living, Yuanxiao yearned for her family and wanted to be home during Chinese New Year. The legend goes that the maid lied to the emperor about the God of Fire secretly having forewarned her that he planned to burn down the city. She asked the emperor to make the city appear like it was already burning so the God wouldn’t then bother them. The worried emperor took her warning seriously and ordered that the entire court and city be decorated with colored lanterns.
He also ordered firecrackers to be burnt for giving feel of a big fire. The palace was so engrossed in the preparations that Yuanxiao managed to sneak home!
New Year’s Eve and the Lantern Festival especially, taking a cue from the above incident, signify family bonding. This is the time when all family members gather for eating, dancing and shou sui (staying up all night), to mark the occasion. According to a curious custom, rice dumplings are had at midnight. Hence the Lantern Festival is popularly called ‘Round Dumpling Festival’ Tens of thousands of local people and even foreigners visit the annual exhibition of lanterns of uncountable shapes, sizes and pretty colors to welcome the traditional Lantern Festival.
The Lantern festival marks the 15th day of the 1st month of the Chinese lunar calendar. This year (2008) the festival takes place on February 21. It marks the culmination of the fortnight-long Chinese New Year holidays and celebrations. According to the lunar calendar, the New Year of the Rat started on February 7, 2008.
As is the norm, all major festivals in any part of the world set the stage for exchange of gifts. These festivals also act as a perfect means for building and enhancing the brand association for most business houses, allowing them to build a rapport with their clients. Of course, one needs to give a deep thought to the kind of gifts to be offered. The gift should be meaningful enough so that the recipient feels like using or preserving it.
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