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Lantern Festival Lights up Nation

On the photo, Han Xue, a ten-year-old girl, with her mother reads the riddles written on cards under the lanterns in Changchun, capital of the northeast China’s Jilin Province February 7, 2001 during the celebration of the Lantern Festival.

Just as on any other important occasion, Chinese people now have various ways to celebrate the Lantern Festival, which fell on February 7. However, some traditional activities including eating sweet dumplings (yuanxiao) made of glutinous rice flour and exhibiting and admiring lanterns remain at the top of most families’ agendas.

In Beijing, many people stayed at home to enjoy yuanxiao with their families. They believe that the festival is a good opportunity for family gatherings.

“I am quite family-oriented, and I celebrate all the traditional festivals with my family every year,” 35-year-old Yu Xiaoxi said.

Even hotels and restaurants were well prepared for the festival. Most of them provided yuanxiao free to all their customers. All the private rooms in the Hongbinlou Restaurant, famous for its Muslim food, were reserved in advance, according to the restaurant’s manager.

“The rooms were all full and the Muslim yuanxiao produced by our restaurant have sold out completely today. The total volume, I think, was about 10,000 boxes,” said Ling Xiufang, the restaurant manager.

Some organizations also choose to spend the festival with their colleagues, some of whose families live outside Beijing.

“It is a good time for members of the bigger family (the company) to communicate with each other, and I asked my boss to hold a party for the staff,” said Gui Fu, chief editor of Home Comfort, a Beijing-based bilingual advertising periodical.

Yesterday's big moon is also considered a symbol of reunion and getting-together. The moon is almost full on the 15th night of every lunar month and yesterday’s (the first 15th night of this lunar year) moon was even rounder and brighter than usual due to a special astronomical occurrence.

Astronomers said because the moon moved to its perigee (the point at which it is nearest the earth) at 8 am today, it looked much bigger, rounder and brighter than usual.

In Nanjing, capital city of east China’s Jiangsu Province, the number of visitors to the lantern fair in the Confucius Temple area along the Qinhuai River was estimated to exceed 400,000 yesterday alone. The fair has been a tradition of the ancient city ever since the Six Dynasties Period (AD220-589).

Over time, many local lantern makers gave up the craft of lantern making because of low profits, and the fair along the Qinhuai River used to be dominated by lanterns from southwest China’s Sichuan Province.

This year the city government invited a large number of old craftsmen in the city to participate in the fair, and there were reported to be 400,000 lanterns, of about 30 different kinds, on sale.

(China Daily 02/08/2001)

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