Sunday, February 5, 2023

China welcomes Lunar New Year with large gatherings

BEIJING ( Associated Press) – China marked the Lunar New Year with mass family gatherings and mass temple visits on Sunday after the government lifted its strict “zero COVID” policy since the pandemic began three years ago. welcomed.

Lunar New Year is the most important annual holiday in China. Each year is named after one of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac in a repeating cycle, and 2023 corresponds to the Year of the Rabbit. In the last three years, the celebrations had a muted character due to the pandemic.

Due to the easing of most COVID-19 restrictions, many people were able to return to their hometowns to reunite with their families for the first time without worrying about the inconvenience of quarantine, possible lockdowns and suspension of travel.

Large public celebrations known as the Spring Festival have also returned to China, with the capital hosting thousands of cultural events on a larger scale than a year ago.

Si Jia, who brought her 7-year-old son to the Qianmen area near Beijing’s Tiananmen, said: “He’s never experienced what a traditional New Year is like because he was very young three years ago, and he has no memory of it.” ” To see the festive atmosphere and learn about traditional Chinese culture.

Despite the fact that the sidewalks were decorated with traditional Chinese lanterns, there was no sign of the usual bustle of New Year’s dinner at Torrenting Park.

A popular fair near a temple in Badachu Park will resume this week after three years, although similar events have yet to resume in Deitan Park and Longton Lake Park.

In Beijing, many devotees prayed at the Lama Temple in the morning, although the crowds seemed smaller than before the pandemic. The Tibetan Buddhist temple allows 60,000 visitors a day with prior reservation for security reasons.

Thousands of residents and tourists fill Qianmen’s pedestrian streets to enjoy New Year’s grilled food and rice cakes. Some children wore traditional rabbit hats, while others ate rabbit-shaped sweets.

Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the China Center for Disease Control, said that large gatherings of people could lead to the spread of the virus in some areas.

However, a large-scale COVID-19 outbreak is unlikely for the next two to three months, Wu said on the Weibo digital platform on Saturday, as 80% of the country’s 1.4 billion people were infected during the latest wave. .

The center reported 12,660 deaths linked to COVID-19 between January 13 and 19, in addition to the 60,000 deaths reported in the last week since the beginning of December. Saturday’s statement indicated that the deaths occurred in hospitals, so anyone who died at home would not be included in the count.

China only includes deaths from pneumonia or respiratory failure in its official death toll from COVID-19, a narrow definition that excludes many deaths attributed to the virus in most parts of the world.

In Hong Kong, people flocked to Wong Tai Sin, the city’s largest Taoist temple, to burn their first incense sticks of the year. The popular on-site ritual has been suspended for the past two years due to the pandemic.

Traditionally, large crowds gather before 11:00 pm on Lunar New Year’s Eve, and everyone tries to be the first, or one of the first, to light their incense sticks in front of the temple’s main hall. Will try Believers believe that the first ones to do so will have a better chance of getting their prayers answered.

Freddie Ho, who lives in the area and went to the temple Saturday night, said he was glad he could come in person.

“I look forward to holding the first incense stick and praying that the new year will bring world peace, Hong Kong’s economy will prosper and the epidemic will go away and we can all live a normal life,” he said. “I think that’s what everybody wants.”

Meanwhile, at the historic Longshan Temple in Taiwan’s capital Taipei, fewer people were praying than last year, despite the fact that the pandemic has subsided. This was partly because many people traveled in or out of Taiwan.

While many communities in Asia celebrate the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit, the Vietnamese celebrate the Year of the Cat. There is no official explanation for that difference, but one theory suggests that cats are popular because they often help Vietnamese rice paddy farmers keep away rats.


Associated Press reporters Henry Hou and video journalist Emily Wang in Beijing, as well as video reporters Alice Fung in Hong Kong and Taijing Wu in Taipei, contributed to this report.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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