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1st Mid-Autumn Festival holiday helps revive tradition
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With the first Mid-Autumn Festival holiday nearly upon China, many people are asking 'what is it for?'

An online survey by the website Sohu.com saw 55.7 percent of the 1,313 respondents saying they would spend the holiday with their families. The festival, similar to the Spring Festival or the dragon boat festival, has been a time for family reunion since ancient China.

Li Kang, from Pingxiang City of eastern Jiangxi Province, never celebrated the festival with his family during his college years. Work pressure after graduation made him ignore the get-together moment.

But this weekend, Li would celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival with his parents in his hometown. The three days off, including this weekend, allowed him to go home.

Li said the Sichuan earthquake in May made him think that leading a safe and simple life with the family was the key to happiness.

"We plan to have a family dinner and appreciate the moon while eating mooncakes," he said.

The Ministry of Railways has predicted a travel surge around the weekend as the first Mid-Autumn Festival holiday would encourage people to travel home.

An estimated 16.8 million passengers would travel by train during the three-day holiday, up 31.3 percent over last year's mid-autumn day.

Besides Li, another 20.3 percent would spend the day with their sweetheart, 11.4 percent with friends, and only 8.4 percent would be alone on the day, the survey showed.

On-line calls to travel and seeking sightseeing teammates and partners had received hundreds of responses. Those who would be alone during the festival could travel with friends met on-line.

On Dec. 16, the State Council, China's Cabinet, revised the nation's official holiday schedule to add three traditional festivals -- "Tomb-Sweeping Day," "Dragon Boat Festival" and "Mid-Autumn Festival" -- in response to public demand. It also changed the length of other holidays.

The move helps the festival to revive its tradition.

Cao Tian, a poet from Zhengzhou, central Henan Province, proposed in his blog to extinguish all lights in the city on the festival so that "pure moonlight could spread over our hearts".

In his poem, Cao suggest the public should appreciate the moon on the mid-autumn day when all extravagant lights on streets and malls, which usually outshined moonlight, were all turned off.

"How about we also turned off television to mark the occasion with our children," the poet suggested. Netizens applauded his advocacy, saying such move saves energy and cherishes tradition.

The Sohu.com survey showed that 36 percent of the respondents took the moon appreciation as the festival's most important activity.

The Mid-Autumn Festival was closely linked to ancient Chinese poetry and verse as the sentimental festival had inspired many great poets.

Folklorist Li Hanqiu said such well-known ancient Chinese verses as "Up towards the glorious moon I raise my head, then lay me down and thoughts of home arise" by great poet Li Bai of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) should be widely promoted.

"Those poetry and verses were a valuable part of the festival," he said, adding modern Chinese know more of mooncakes than the verses.

(Xinhua News Agency September 13, 2008)

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