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Spring Festival Ends in Lantern Light
One more dinner tonight with the family, followed perhaps by a trip to Yuyuan Garden to take in the lanterns, and Spring Festival is officially over for another year to Shanghaiers.

Today, the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar, brings the Lantern Festival, a time to buy or make lanterns and enjoy traditional fare such as "yuanxiao," or round rice dumplings, with relatives.

According to history, the festival may have evolved out of activities held to celebrate the lengthening of daylight hours that followed closely on the New Year.

Millions of local residents are expected to celebrate this evening with fireworks, food and a lantern show.

As usual, the focal point of the festivities will be in Yuyuan Garden, where lanterns in all shapes and sizes have been on display for more than a week. Many creative lanterns depict animals, flowers, traditional legends and historical figures.

Since 2002 is the Year of the Horse, a golden, awe-inspiring horse galloping on a platform of flower lanterns at the central square of the garden is sure to steal the spotlight.

Visitors to the garden will also enjoy traditional programs such as lion- and dragon-dancing performances. The lantern show runs through Friday, with lanterns lit from 5:30 to 10 p.m. daily.

Another big part of the festival tradition is the eating of dumplings made from glutinous rice flour, some with red bean paste, sesame and other flavored stuffings, and some plain.

The dumplings are also called "tangyuan," which is similar in pronunciation to the term for "family reunion."

The round shape signifies perfection and reunion.

(eastday.com February 26, 2002)

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