The Torch Festival is a traditional festival celebrated among some ethnic groups in southwestern China, such as the Yi, Bai, Hani, Lisu, Naxi, Pumi and Lahu etc. The festival features lighting up torches, hence its name. It usually falls in early June of the lunar calendar or on the 24th or 25th of the month, with three days of celebrations. The origin of the festival may have something to do with the worship of fire by ancestors, who believed fire had the power to repel insects, drive away evils and to protect crop growth. For some ethnic groups, it is a tradition in the festival for elders to share farming experience with young people and educate them on taking care of crops.
During the festival, big torches tied up with dried pine wood and lightwood are erected in all villages, with small torches placed in front of the door of each household. When night falls, the torches are lit and the villages are as bright as daytime. At the same time, people walk around the fields and houses, holding small torches and placing the torches in the field corners. Inside the villages, young men and women are singing and dancing around the big torches that keep burning throughout the night.
Other activities like song and dance parties, horse races, bullfights, arrow shooting, wrestling, tugs-of-wars and swinging etc are also held during the festival. And there are trade fairs going on. In some areas, various religious rituals are performed to pray for a harvest.
In a horse race of the Yi people in Yunnan, torches are used to form multiple hurdles for riders to get through; the Hani people in Yunnan traditionally attach various fruits to torches with strings. When the strings are broken after the torches are ignited, people scramble for the fruits for good luck.
For the Lisu people in Sichuan, the festival is an occasion for holding grand torch parades. Big torches are carried by the procession, which is like a fire dragon. If several processions from different directions meet, it is a tradition to swap the big torches with one another.
Dubbed "the Carnival of the Orient", the Torch Festival is a traditional and age-old grand festival among some ethnic minorities in China.