My phone screen lit up, a message from my Chinese friend briefly lighting up the screen ‘元宵节快乐！Happy Yuan Xiao Festival.’ A cute picture of a dog dancing with a lantern hanging off its paw accompanied her holiday greetings on the last day of the Chinese New Year holiday.
Yuan Xiao is a 2,000-year-old holiday in China that celebrates the first full moon of the New Year with the eating of sweet rice balls known as ‘tang yuan,’ launching of fireworks, lion dancing, and lighting up the streets with lanterns.
The lantern festival is particularly important in Guangzhou. Another local friend recently told me it may be as big as, if not bigger, than New Year’s Day here. Guangzhou’s Yuexiu Park has an annual display of large lantern installations. Gaudy, glittering, and gorgeous, you simply can’t help smiling when you see these shining, over-the-top decorations.
This year, the park created an “around the world” theme with complex installations for each of China’s 34 provincial areas and a large central display featuring the five continents. South America seemed to be comprised of 5 countries with over of half of it Brazil and the UK had merged into Europe. Geographical accuracy aside, the entire park was a feast for the eyes.