The Lantern Festival

Yesterday it was the Lantern Festival or 元宵节 yuanxiaojie. This festivity marks the official end of the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival and it is celebrated with fireworks and lantern displays. It is also customary to guess riddles and eat glutinous rice balls (汤圆 tangyuan) filled with meat, sesame or red bean paste.

I didn’t eat glutinous rice balls this time because my fridge was full of other more perishable foods. Last week C.’s company gave each employee a bag with a lot of packets of these balls, frozen. They can also be made at home, but C. laughs in my face every time I mention making dumplings (“No one makes their own dumplings in Suzhou”, he says), so I’m sure he doesn’t know how to make rice balls either. However, I wanted to go and see the lanterns.

“In all these years you never took me to see the lanterns”, I said with my best pouty face. Said and done! In the evening we went to Xietang Old Street, a fake old street with a lantern display not too far from home. With fake old street I mean a street that is new, but was built imitating the classic Suzhou style with canals, white houses and black roofs. It looks pretty much like the real deal, except, of course, that you know it isn’t. And that all the houses are in fact restaurants and shops.

It was crowded but still bearable. You can see below some of the displayed lanterns. I touched one of them when no one was looking and they seemed to be made with silk or some similar cloth. After all, silk is abundant in Suzhou and if they were made of paper they would be ruined by the rain.

All the pictures were taken with my mobile phone as my camera takes horrible pictures at night. Sorry about the quality!



Fish symbolize abundance (because both words have the same pronounciation).


One of the main themes this year was monkeys, of course! Mabel would have been delighted :D


The biggest lantern covered a whole bridge and it was about Journey to the West.


Here you can see the size of the lanterns.