across people China She celebrated the Lunar New Year with family gatherings and crowds visiting temples after the government lifted its strict no-COVID policy, in the biggest festive celebration since the pandemic began three years ago.
Lunar New Year is the most important annual holiday in China. Each year is named after one of the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac in a repeating cycle, with this year being the Year of the Rabbit. The festivities have been overshadowed for the past three years by the pandemic.
With most Covid-19 restrictions eased, many people can finally make their first trip back to their home cities to reunite with their families without worrying about the hassles of quarantines and possible lockdowns and travel suspensions. Larger public celebrations are also back for what is known as China’s Spring Festival, with the capital hosting thousands of cultural events – on a larger scale than a year ago.
Wu Zunyu, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control, said mass movement of people could cause the virus to spread in certain areas. He wrote on social media that a large-scale surge of Covid-19 in the next two to three months was unlikely because about 80% of the country’s 1.4 billion people were infected during the last wave.
In Beijing, many devotees offered morning prayers at a Lama temple, but the crowds appeared smaller compared to the pre-pandemic days. The Tibetan Buddhist site allows up to 60,000 visitors per day, citing safety reasons, and requires advance reservations.
In Taoranting Park, there was no sign of the usual bustling food stalls in the New Year although the lanes were decorated with traditional Chinese lanterns. The famous temple fair in Badachu Park will return this week, but similar events in Ditan Park and Longtan Lake Park are yet to return.
In Hong Kong, people flock to Wong Tai Sin Temple, the city’s largest Taoist temple, to burn the first incense sticks of the year. The site’s popular rites have been suspended for the past two years due to the pandemic.
Traditionally, large crowds gather before 11 pm on Lunar New Year’s Eve, with everyone trying to be the first or among the first to place incense sticks in the stands in front of the main hall of the temple. Worshipers believe that those who are among the first to place their incense sticks have the best chance of having their prayers answered.
Freddy Ho, who visited the temple on Saturday night, was happy that he could join the action in person.
“I hope to put down the first incense stick and pray that the new year will bring world peace, Hong Kong’s economy will flourish, the epidemic will be away from us and we can all live a normal life,” Hu said. “I think that’s what everyone wants.”
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