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元宵節: The Chinese Lantern Festival in Hong Kong

The Chinese Lantern Festivals that take place in Hong Kong each year are quite a sight, and offer an exhilarating experience! Traditionally based on many Chinese legends and stories, this holiday is a time to be with loved ones, admire beautiful Chinese lanterns, and maybe even find or reunite with your true love.

In this article, you’ll learn all about the Hong Kong Spring Lantern Festival, from its traditional meaning to modern-day celebrations.

Are you ready? Let’s get started!

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1. What is the Chinese Lantern Festival in Hong Kong?

In Chinese culture, the Lantern Festival, or 元宵節 (jyun4 siu1 zit3), is considered a time of passion and romance. This holiday also goes by the name of “Chinese Valentine’s Day.”

This is because, in ancient times, young girls were not allowed to go out except during the Lantern Festival on this day. So unmarried men and women took this opportunity to meet, and lovers to reunite.

However, this holiday isn’t as big in Hong Kong as it is in mainland China. In fact, people in Hong Kong don’t have much passion for the Lantern Festival. This is partially because the Lantern Festival isn’t a public holiday. Besides, Hong Kong was under British colonial rule for almost one hundred years, and they’ve gotten used to Valentine’s Day already.

Despite this, during the Lantern Festival, Hong Kong families will still get together and eat dumplings.

2. Chinese Lantern Festival Dates

Paper Lanterns For the Spring Lantern Festival in Hong Kong

The Lantern Festival is celebrated each year on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunar calendar, or 正月十五 (zing1 jyut6 sap6 ng5) in Cantonese. For your convenience, here’s a list of this holiday’s date on the Gregorian calendar for the next ten years.

  • 2020: February 8
  • 2021: February 26
  • 2022: February 15
  • 2023: February 5
  • 2024: February 24
  • 2025: February 12
  • 2026: March 3
  • 2027: February 20
  • 2028: February 9
  • 2029: February 27

3. How is Chinese Valentine’s Day Celebrated?

Chinese Man Hanging a Spring Lantern Festival Lantern with Grandson

There are many colorful and exciting festivities for the Lantern Festival in Hong Kong, though the most important thing is for families and loved ones to be with each other.

During the Chinese Lantern Festival, Hong Kong locals admire beautiful lanterns. A grand Lantern Carnival is held in Hong Kong every year, offering many programs including lantern displays, ethnic dance, traditional stage arts, and even a fireworks show. There’s also a lighting-up ceremony and game booths for families to enjoy together.

Another favorite activity is to 猜燈謎 (caai1 dang1 mai4), or solve riddles that are written on lanterns. Trying to solve the lantern riddle gives people something to think about while admiring the lanterns.

During the Lantern Festival, you can also see the lively dragon and lion dances. 舞獅 (mou5 si1), or the lion dance, is a kind of traditional performing art with martial arts techniques. To perform it, two dancers are dressed in lion costumes, one wearing the head and the other wearing the lower body. This lion jumps and rolls to the tune of music from gongs and drums, full of energy. Keep in mind that the lion in the Chinese lion dance is very different from lions in Western cultures, so if you have a chance, please enjoy it!

As we mentioned earlier, the Spring Festival is a perfect time to be with loved ones. Many Hongkongers get together with family members to enjoy a nice meal together, including 湯圓 (tong1 jyun2), or the glutinous rice ball. You may recall that glutinous rice balls are also eaten during the Winter Solstice celebration because they symbolize unity and reunion; people consume them during the Lantern Festival for the same reason.

4. Chinese Love Stories

How many people through the ages have looked toward the sky at night, hungering for love, and imagining their own future? And how many writers through the ages have wanted to express the genuine feelings of being human?

Some people say that Chinese people aren’t very romantic by nature. However, some of the most beautiful love stories come from Chinese culture and folklore.

Two of the most popular Chinese love stories are those of the Butterfly Lovers and of the Cowherd and the Weaver. Why not read up on these yourself?

5. Must-Know Vocabulary for the Spring Lantern Festival

Glutinous Rice Balls

Are you ready to review some of the Cantonese vocabulary words we saw in this article? Here’s a list of the most important words and phrases for this holiday!

  • 元宵節 (jyun4 siu1 zit3) — Lantern Festival
  • 舞獅 (mou5 si1) — lion dance
  • 正月十五 (zing1 jyut6 sap6 ng5) — the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunar calendar
  • 猜燈謎 (caai1 dang1 mai4) — solve riddles that are written on lanterns
  • 彩燈 (coi2 dang1) — paper lantern
  • 元宵綵燈會 (jyun4 siu1 coi2 dang1 wui5) — Lunar New Year Lantern Carnival
  • 掛燈籠 (gwaa3 dang1 lung4) — hang lantern
  • 湯圓 (tong1 jyun2) — glutinous rice ball
  • 月圓之夜 (jyut6 jyun4 zi1 je6) — full moon night
  • 舞龍 (mou5 lung4) — dragon dance
  • 花燈 (faa1 dang1) — colorful lantern

To hear the pronunciation of each word or phrase, and to read them alongside relevant images, be sure to check out our Cantonese Spring Lantern Festival vocabulary list.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the Lantern Festival in Hong Kong is an essential component of traditional Chinese culture and is a celebration you don’t want to miss experiencing.

What are your thoughts on this Chinese holiday? Is there a Valentine’s Day celebration in your country? Let us know in the comments!

If you’re interested in learning more about Chinese or Cantonese holidays, you may find the following pages useful:

And for more information on Cantonese culture in general, check out these pages:

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