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Dates for assembly

February 22-24 Lantern festival

Known also as Yuen Siu and Teng Chieh, this celebration marks the end of the 15-day Chinese New Year festivities

Outline script for assembly leaders

Thousands of years ago, in a small Chinese town, a man killed a goose. What the man didn't know was that this was the favourite goose of Yue-huang, and Yue-huang was the great Jade Emperor. Chinese people who follow the Taoist religion believe that he is the supreme god who watches over all human actions.

The story goes that the Jade Emperor was so angry because this goose had been killed that he decided to destroy the entire town by fire. However, a good spirit warned the man what would happen. He persuaded his friends to hang hundreds of lanterns throughout the town so that, from heaven, it would look as if it was already on fire.

Seeing the blazing lights, the Jade Emperor believed the town had already been punished for killing the goose. Ever since, Chinese people have celebrated for three nights at the time of the first full moon after the Chinese New Year. They parade paper lanterns of different shapes and colours through the streets, stage dragon dances and light fireworks.

The festival has changed very little over the past 2,000 years, except that now the processions may include elaborately lit floats and other exotic electric illuminations. In some places in northern China, blocks of ice are carved into human shapes and burning candles are placed in holes inside them so that they look like cold, white ghosts.

Other traditions teach that the lanterns are lit to guide spirits safely back to the world of the dead or that the festival celebrates the end of winter. Being a period of good fortune, it is also a traditional time for young lovers to meet and date, not unlike Valentine's Day.

Follow-up

Local Chinese restaurants may have contacts with performers of traditional New Year dances or provide instruction in the use of chopsticks.

Some Chinese take-away outlets and other Chinese shops may sell the traditional food for this season, such as yuanxiao, a sweet dumpling.

Students could make red and jade-green lanterns out of decorated card. Be aware, however, that using candles in them can represent a medium to high-risk fire hazard. www.underfives.co.ukchnsenyr.html

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