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Holiday dilemma: Celebrate Lantern Festival or Valentine's Day?

By Hiufu Wong, CNN
updated 9:43 PM EST, Wed February 19, 2014
Chinese revelers end their 15-day Lunar New Year celebrations with Lantern Festival, or Yuanxiao Festival. This year's Lantern Festival falls on February 14. Chinese revelers end their 15-day Lunar New Year celebrations with Lantern Festival, or Yuanxiao Festival. This year's Lantern Festival falls on February 14.
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Lantern Festival 2014
First full moon
Yuyuan, Shanghai
Fireworks and tangyuan
Confucius Temple, Nanjing
Chinese Valentine's Day
Lantern Festival vs. Valentine's Day
Splendid China Folk Village, Shenzhen
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • China's Lantern Festival takes place on the last day of Lunar New Year celebrations
  • This year's festival falls on Valentine's Day
  • Chinese celebrate the first full moon by eating rice dumplings with meat fillings

(CNN) -- After millions of firecrackers lit and millions of gallons of baijiu (rice wine) gulped, revelers around China conclude the country's 15-day Lunar New Year celebrations with the colorful Lantern Festival, or Yuanxiao Festival.

On the 15th day of the first month of the new lunar year, Chinese celebrate the year's first full moon by eating hearty tangyuan (rice dumplings with sweet or meat fillings) with family and solving riddles written on cards hanging from lanterns.

The word "tangyuan" sounds similar to the Chinese word for "reunion" in both Mandarin and Cantonese, and signifies bonds between family members.

But there's a problem with this year's festival.

This year the Lantern Festival falls on February 14 -- Valentine's Day -- leading to widespread debate among Chinese netizens: Should you share tangyuan with family or chocolate with a lover?

MORE: 7 ways to celebrate Lunar New Year

According to ChinaNews.com, a recent survey indicates that 43.7% of respondents are choosing to celebrate Valentine's Day with a mate, while only 25.3% plan to spend Lantern Festival with their parents.

Although Lantern Festival is an important family festival, it's also known as one of China's two Valentine's Days (the other is on the seventh day on the seventh month of the lunar year).

In ancient times, unmarried girls were allowed to leave home only during Lantern Festival's celebration.

Hence, the day has traditionally been a popular one for loverbirds to meet.

Owing to the rare "dual holiday," in Hong Kong this year, twice as many couples are getting married on Valentine's Day as they did last year.

A total of 493 pairs of couples got married on Valentine's Day this year -- only 187 pairs got hitched on February 14, 2013.

The Lantern Festival is celebrated outside of China, in countries including Malaysia and Vietnam.

READ: 'Evil spirits': The truth about Chinese New Year

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