By : Dr. Bala Chandran G.K
The Lantern festival is celebrated by the Chinese community on the 15th day of the first month in the lunar calendar. It started as a significant festival of the Han Dynasty.
During the festival, children go out at night to temples carrying paper lanterns and solve the riddles on the lanterns whilst eating glutinous rice balls. Family reunion is also seen during this times. The lantern symbolises the people throwing away their past selves and replacing them with new ones.
The lanterns are mostly red as it symbolises good fortune. The followers prepare a lot of activities during which they pray for good fortune.
One common legend dealing with the origin of the lantern festival is about a beautiful crane that flew down to earth from heaven. It was hunted and killed by the villagers after landing on earth. This angered the Jade Emperor in heaven as the crane was is favourites. He planned a storm of fire to destroy the village on the 15th lunar day. The Jade Emperor daughter was not happy with her father’s decision so she warned the inhabitants of her father’s plan.
As the villagers were consulting on how to resolve this issue , a wise man from another village suggested that every family should hang lanterns around their houses , set up bonfires on the streets and light up fire crackers on the 14th , 15th and 16th lunar days . This would show as though the village is on fire to the Jade Emperor. On the 15th lunar day, troops from heaven were sent to the village to burn and destroy the village. From afar they saw that the village is already in blaze and returned to heaven to report to the Jade Emperor.
Satisfied, the Emperor decided not to burn the village. From that day on , people celebrate the anniversary on the fifteenth lunar day every year by carrying lanterns on the streets, burning firecrackers and displaying fireworks.
Today, the displaying of lanterns is still a major event on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month through our nation.
In Kuala Terengganu it is celebrated by the Tionghua community at Kampung Cina and Streets at Kampung Cina is adorned with a lot of latterns and this awesome event has become a symbol of solidarity amongst people of all races here.
*** Dr. Bala Chandran G.K is Chief of Dewan Himpunan Penyokong PAS (DHPP) Terengganu. Yesterday, he celebrated ‘Lantern Festival’ with Kuala Terengganu Chinese Community