Related: World Leaders Wish China Happy Lunar New Year
Worshipers hold incense sticks as they pray before midnight to welcome in Chinese Lunar New Year at the Wong Tai Sin Temple in Hong Kong on February 9, 2013. [Photo: ANTONY DICKSON/Imagine China]
From running trains to remote mountain villages, people across China are toasting and celebrating on Saturday, hoping the festive glee will mark the start of a better new year.
The Chinese Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, falls on Sunday this year. Most Chinese spend the eve in sumptuous banquets, colorful fireworks and chats with family members while watching TV galas.
On a train leaving from Wuhan for Shiyan, patrolling stewards grabbed microphones to stage a gala for those who missed out the chance to be with their families.
Having performed an exotic dance and an opening song, 26-year-old stewardess Lin Lin won resounding ovation from the few passengers in the audience.
"I thought the New Year's Eve on the train must be particularly lonely and cheerless. I haven't expected such excitement," said Jia Zexi, who works as a chef in the central city of Wuhan.
As the most important occasion for family reunions, the Spring Festival is usually preceded by a period of national travel rush, as hundreds of millions of Chinese workers board trains, planes and long-distance buses to return to their hometowns.
In a village in China's mountainous Guizhou Province, local Buyi communities held banquets to mark the start of the new year and welcome the returning young who have worked in other parts of the country.
Yang Axiu, a 57-year-old villager, observed new changes in their New Year's dinner, which now includes more herbs and vegetables than the traditionally-favored meat.
"In the past years of austerity, an extravagant dinner on the New Year's Eve is the expectation of the whole year. But now as we can afford lavish meals everyday, we start to wish the dinner of the year can return to the old ways," Yang said.
Though celebrations usually range from one region to another, people across China will agree on having a family dinner being the essential part of the New Year's Eve.
In northern China, dumplings are an indispensable dish, while in the south, where rice is preferred over wheat, families eat glutinous rice cakes. It is also a time when family tables are laden with local delicacies to satiate the returning sons and daughters.
On Haijian 137, the Chinese marine surveillance ship that patrolled the waters surrounding the Diaoyu Islands on the New Year's Eve, the dinner featured various seafood, including salted crab meat, jellyfish with bamboo shoot and spicy squids, as the crew mainly come from the coastal city of Ningbo.
"What we have on the ship is limited, but we must try every means to have everyone enjoy the New Year's dinner and prevent them from getting homesick," said Captain Fang Dongnian.
As the night descended on the sea, the crew sat together feasting and watching TV gala, much the way other families did, but the diners must pay extra attentions to keep dishes steady on the table as ships rolled badly.
"Although we often passed the Lunar New Year at sea, it is the first time in waters near the Diaoyu Island. It is very meaningful," said Hu Zhilai, an official on the ship.