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Food and Lantern Festival

Chinese Dragon Dance

Lantern Festival or the Feast of the First Full Moon, the climactic night of the Chinese New Year holiday falls on the 15 th day of the first lunar month. Spectators will throng the streets filled with lanterns, processions of clowns, stilt walkers and lion dancers on that night.

Chinese LanternsLike most Chinese festivals, many of the customs associated with Lantern Festival have to do with eating. One such custom was known as "eating taro under the lanterns". Close to midnight all the members of the family will assemble beneath the brightest light suspended high overhead and proceeded to eat boiled taro prepared beforehand.

Another food-related custom common both past and present is the eating of "tang yuan", or "yuan xiao" as it is called in the North. " Yuan xiao", sweet tasting glutinous rice-flour balls with many types of filling served in a soup are symbolic of the first full moon of the year and family reunion because of their perfectly round shape. The fillings may include pastes of black bean, Hawthorne , date, dark and white sesame. In Southern China , pork, chicken and vegetable fillings are popular. Although there are regional differences in taste, there is only one way to cook dumplings,

which is to heat them just long enough so that the outer skin has a delicate and slippery consistency.

Tang Yuan

In Northen China, custom requires that "yuan xiao" be made on the seventh day of the New Year and sold on the eighth. Once can buy these treats in restaurants throughout the Lantern Festival until the 18 th of the first month. After that date, the dumplings are no longer available.

Other versions of "yuan xiao" include Mongolian butter dumplings, which are mildly sweet with a creamy aftertaste. In Tianjin the fillings are made with a mixture of honey and white grapes. Shanghai dumplings excel in both salty and sweet categories, and Zhejiang is noted for its crabmeat dumplings.

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Last Modified: 11/28/11.