Sun. Jan 29th, 2023

BEIJING (AP) — Individuals throughout China rang within the Lunar New 12 months on Sunday with giant household gatherings and crowds visiting temples after the federal government lifted its strict “zero-COVID” coverage, marking the most important festive celebration for the reason that pandemic started three years in the past.

The Lunar New 12 months is crucial annual vacation in China. Annually is called after one of many 12 indicators of the Chinese language zodiac in a repeating cycle, with this yr being the 12 months of the Rabbit. For the previous three years, celebrations had been muted within the shadow of the pandemic.

With the easing of most COVID-19 restrictions that had confined thousands and thousands to their houses, individuals might lastly make their first journey again to their hometowns to reunite with their households with out worrying concerning the hassles of quarantine, potential lockdowns and suspension of journey. Bigger public celebrations additionally returned for what is called the Spring Competition in China, with the capital internet hosting 1000’s of cultural occasions — on a bigger scale than a yr in the past.

“He has by no means skilled what a conventional new yr is like as a result of he was too younger three years in the past and he had no reminiscence of that,” mentioned Si Jia, who introduced her 7-year-old son to the Qianmen space close to Beijing’s Tiananmen Sq. to expertise the festive vibe and find out about conventional Chinese language tradition.

Almost 53,000 supplied prayers at Beijing’s Lama Temple however the crowds seemed to be smaller in comparison with pre-pandemic days. The Tibetan Buddhist web site permits as much as 60,000 guests a day, citing security causes, and requires an advance reservation.

Throngs of residents and vacationers swarmed pedestrian streets in Qianmen, having fun with snacks from barbecue and New 12 months rice cake stands, and a few youngsters wore conventional Chinese language rabbit hats. Others held blown sugar or marshmallows formed like rabbits.

At Taoranting Park, there was no signal of the same old bustling new yr meals stalls regardless of its walkways being embellished with conventional Chinese language lanterns. A well-liked temple honest at Badachu Park that was suspended for 3 years shall be again this week, however related occasions at Ditan Park and Longtan Lake Park have but to return.

The mass motion of individuals could trigger the virus to unfold in sure areas, mentioned Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist at China’s Middle for Illness Management. However a large-scale COVID-19 surge shall be unlikely within the subsequent two or three months as a result of about 80% of the nation’s 1.4 billion individuals have been contaminated through the latest wave, he wrote on the social media platform Weibo on Saturday.

The middle reported 12,660 COVID-19-related deaths between Jan. 13 and 19, together with 680 instances of respiratory failure attributable to the virus and 11,980 fatalities from different illnesses mixed with COVID-19. These are on high of 60,000 fatalities reported final week since early December. The assertion on Saturday mentioned the deaths occurred in hospitals, which implies anybody who died at residence wouldn’t be included within the tally.

China has counted solely deaths from pneumonia or respiratory failure in its official COVID-19 dying toll, a slender definition that excludes many deaths that will be attributed to COVID-19 in a lot of the world.

In Hong Kong, revelers flocked to the town’s largest Taoist temple, Wong Tai Sin, to burn the primary incense sticks of the yr. The favored ritual was suspended the final two years as a result of pandemic.

Historically, massive crowds collect earlier than 11 p.m. on Lunar New 12 months’s Eve, with everybody attempting to be the primary, or among the many first, to place their incense sticks into the stands in entrance of the temple’s foremost corridor. Worshippers imagine those that are among the many first to put their incense sticks will stand the most effective likelihood of getting their prayers answered.

Resident Freddie Ho, who visited the temple on Saturday night time, was glad that he might be part of the occasion in particular person.

“I hope to put the primary incense stick and pray that the New 12 months brings world peace, that Hong Kong’s financial system will prosper, and that the pandemic will go away from us and we will all dwell a standard life,” Ho mentioned. “I imagine that is what everybody needs.”

In the meantime, the crowds praying for success on the historic Longshan Temple in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, had been smaller than a yr in the past even because the pandemic has eased. That’s partly as a result of many had ventured to different elements of Taiwan or abroad on long-awaited journeys.

As communities throughout Asia welcomed the 12 months of the Rabbit, the Vietnamese had been celebrating the 12 months of the Cat as a substitute. There’s no official reply to clarify the distinction. However one idea suggests cats are fashionable as a result of they typically assist Vietnamese rice farmers to push back rats.


Leung reported from Hong Kong. Related Press journalists Henry Hou, Olivia Zhang in Beijing, Alice Fung in Hong Kong and Taijing Wu in Taipei, Taiwan contributed to this report.


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