The Lantern festival normally starts around the 15th day after the Chinese New Year. To me, this is one of the most charming holidays in Chinese culture. One aspect that will catch everyone's attention is the lantern parade. If you are a tourist, this is the best holiday to observe. The reason is that there are almost no weird customs tied to it; the one thing you need to do is to have FUN.
There are more than one legend explains why the Chinese people celebrate this festival, but we just concentrate on legend that commonly told in Asia.
A long time ago, a beautiful crane flew from heaven down to the earth. After it landed down on earth, the crane was hunted and killed by an earth villager. The Jade Emperor in Heaven was so angered at a town for killing his favorite crane that he decided to destroy it with a storm of fire. However, a good-hearted fairy heard of this act of vengeance, and warned the people of the town to light lanterns throughout the town, and explode firecracker on the 14th, 15th, and 16th of the month.
This would give the village the appearance of being on fire to the Jade Emperor. On the fifteenth lunar day, troops sent down from heaven whose mission was to destroy the village saw that the village was already ablaze, and returned to heaven to report to the Jade Emperor. Satisfied that his crane had already been avenged, the Jade Emperor decided not to destroy the town.
From that day on, people celebrated the anniversary of their deliverance by carried lanterns of different shapes and colors through the streets on the first full moon of the year, providing a spectacular backdrop for lion dances, dragon dances, and fireworks.
This holiday will feature children showing off some of the most complex and delicate lanterns, lit with real candles inside while walking down the street. Sometime the adults are also participants, but the majority of the time those people are couples. You may say who would be crazy enough to give real fire to children. My reply to you is the Chinese, that's who.
However, the children in China are always adored and beloved by their grandparents and parents; they never worry about a thing even if when something does happen. That's what I call love. But then: What is love? Baby, don't hurt me. Don't hurt me, no more. I don't know... Hehehe.
I would not suggest that you try to make a lantern for yourself. First, it can be very dangerous. If you don't know how to place the candle correctly, it may burst into flame. Second, you will probably be laughed at by the natives because the lantern might not look like anything. My best advice is go out and buy one (20 Chinese Sky Fly Fire Lanterns Wish Party). Lanterns range from cheap to expensive. So, enjoy.