by Helen Shia and Evan Mantyk, Contributing Writers
Like the Christmas tree, strings of holiday lights, and New Year’s fireworks, the lantern is a quintessential part of holiday traditions. Chinese New Year, the biggest holiday for 2 billion people worldwide, simply wouldn’t be the Chinese New Year without lanterns.
Also known as the Lunar New Year, the Chinese New Year commences two weeks of celebration, feasting, and holiday traditions, culminating in the Lantern Festival—this year on Feb. 19. The Lantern Festival is the first opportunity to see a full moon in the New Year and, as its name suggests, it’s an evening to enjoy the dazzling brilliance of the lanterns one last time.
But where does the Chinese lantern come from?
It is said that almost 2,000 years ago, the great military strategist Zhuge Liang needed a way to communicate in the dark. How did he do it? Thanks to ancient China's advanced paper-making technology, he took a sheet of oiled rice paper, fitted it with a bamboo frame in the shape of his signature hat, lit a candle to illuminate and produce hot air, and… voila! The first lantern was born, floating into the night sky. Zhuge Liang’s style name was “Kongming” (孔明), so today the floating lantern is still known as a “Kongming Lantern.”
In ancient China, it was customary for families to hang lanterns at gates. For the Lantern Festival, intriguing riddles were written on strips of paper and attached to the bottom of a lantern. Everyone would join in guessing these thought-provoking riddles, making the celebration interactive and lively.
It is said that during the reign of Emperor Tang Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.), there were 50,000 different kinds of lanterns lit in the capital city of Chang'an. The lanterns’ patterns and embellishments exemplified the grandeur of the prosperous Tang Dynasty—known as China’s Golden Age.
Now you can carry the lavish beauty and joyful wonder of traditional Chinese lanterns with you wherever you go by wearing our Lantern Joy Earrings. They come in silver or gold and are embellished by cubic zirconia and turquoise-colored stones. Wearing them can brighten up any day of the year!