Red lanterns hanging in Jinli Street, Chengdu, China
© Philippe LEJEANVRE/Getty Image
Lighting the way to new beginnings
The Lantern Festival marks the final day of Lunar (aka Chinese) New Year celebrations, which began this year on February 12 when we ushered in the Year of the Ox. Traditionally, the day of the festival is filled with dancing, firecrackers, children's games, and food—including tangyuan, balls of rice flour that are generally loaded with sweet fillings. After sundown, celebrants gather to light or observe lanterns like the ones we see here in Chengdu, China. The lanterns are made in all sizes, shapes, and colors, and sometimes illustrate historical or mythological scenes. This year, most public celebrations will be canceled or reimagined online due to COVID-19 concerns, but the spirit remains the same. Many think of lanterns as symbolic of a new start and a way to illuminate the future as a new year begins.