Thursday, March 5, 2015

Lantern Festival = Yuanxiao = Gigantic Moon

For us "Practicing Chinese" (in the cultural sense), today is the 15th day of the new year. This also marks the end of major festivities associated with Lunar New Year/Chinese New Year/Spring Festival. To mark the occasion, I had some Yuanxiao this morning:
My last Yuanxiao. It had black sesame filling.

As our calendar is largely based on the lunar cycle, the 15th of every month is a full moon. The first full moon of the year is especially auspicious, and celebrated as the Yuanxiao Festival or Lantern Festival. There are many origin theories as to how this festival first came about, but to most modern Chinese the festival is synonymous with boiled sticky rice balls. Yuan (元) can be interpreted as the "beginning", but it is also a homonym for another Yuan (圓), which means "round". That leads to a term that means "get together", TuanYuan (團圓).

In Southern China, they eat something very similar to Yuanxiao, called Tangyuan (湯圓) "soup rounds". There's also a big culture around hanging lanterns there, so it's sometimes called the Lantern Festival, as well.

For Chinese, food is highly symbolic. So with the above in mind, these little rice balls are doubly representative of the first full moon and getting together with your family.

Speaking of which, did you see the moon on this particular night? If you had a clear sky, as was the case from SF tonight, we had a big, beautiful moon:
I don't expect I'll ever get a truly beautiful shot of the moon. Some things you just have to bear witness with your eyes and keep in your memories.
I hope you were able to enjoy and appreciate tonight's big, beautiful moon and spend the day with your loved ones.

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