Changzhi - Eshanxi
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Time: 02 18,2022      Source: CHINA DAILY

Visitors and residents spoiled for choice during public holiday as province offers a wide variety of unique events which are perfect for all the families to get involved in

It's a delight to spend Spring Festival in Shanxi as there are a variety of celebratory events for people to enjoy, said residents and tourists in the North China province.

This variety is the result of Shanxi's long history. A string of festivals centering on Spring Festival, or Lunar New Year, is the grandest showcase of Shanxi traditions and cultures developed over millennia.

Spring Festival is the most important traditional holiday in China. This is especially true in Shanxi, where Lunar New Year celebrations last for a longer period and come in many forms of traditional event.

In Shanxi, Spring Festival celebrations, which are usually called "guonian" in Chinese, or "passing the year", can last nearly two months. It begins on Laba, the eighth day of the 12th lunar month.

It is followed by Minor Lunar New Year on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month; Lunar New Year's Eve, Lunar New Year's Day and Lantern Festival.

It ends on the second day of the second lunar month, which is called Longtaitou by locals, or the day when dragons raise their heads. Longtaitou also marks the beginning of farming work.

The days before Spring Festival are used to prepare for "guonian", buying food and ornaments, writing couplets and making New Year snacks. The days following Lunar New Year's Day are dedicated to visiting relatives and friends. And there are celebrations throughout the 50-plus days.

In the ancient city of Pingyao in central Shanxi, for instance, the celebrations feature a variety of folklore shows.

Parades, shows of lanterns, stilt walking, boating on land, drumming performances and dragon and lion dances can be spotted throughout the ancient city during the Spring Festival period.

"I'm glad to be in an authentic Shanxi Lunar New Year celebration again after being away from the province for many years," said Li Hui, a Shanxi native who had lived in a South China city. "The shows and performances just bring my childhood memories back to life."

This Spring Festival, Li returned to her hometown of Pingyao with her husband and son.

"I used to talk about the Lunar New Year celebrations in Shanxi with my son and he didn't seem to understand," Li said. "And now he told me he has some idea on what a typical Shanxi Lunar New Year looks like because of his experience here."

In the village of Fengnanyuan in the city of Huozhou, Shi Hongbing, a senior resident, was happy to have a family reunion during the Spring Festival holiday.

"A family reunion doesn't mean merely bringing together all the members, letting them idle around, just sit or sleep," Shi said. "It is an opportunity to engage everybody in doing significant things."

The significant things include decorating the home with ornaments, like lanterns, paper-cuts and spring couplets; cooking New Year's dishes and making snacks, as well as sharing life experiences with each other.

On Lunar New Year's Eve, cooking New Year's food is the family tradition.

"My wife is a master in making New Year buns crafted into various shapes and images like flowers and auspicious animals," Shi said. "And everybody, including my 8-year-old grandson, likes to learn this cooking skill from her."

Shi explained that New Year buns and noodles are not made from wheat dough, but an ingredient called Hele, or a mixture of oat, buckwheat and pea flour.

"Hele, which is the homophone of peace and happiness in Chinese, is the auspicious food for the New Year.

"You cannot eat all the food on New Year's Eve. Leaving some food for the next day means you will have a year of surplus," Shi said.

Despite traditions being observed, there are innovations emerging in the celebration of Spring Festival.

Pang Jiatai, a university student returning to his hometown in the city of Huairen, noticed some changes in New Year celebrations.

"We used to set off fireworks and crackers to celebrate Spring Festival," Pang said. "But there are no more such things this year."

Fireworks and crackers, which are said to drive off evil spirits with their deafening noise and bright flames, are a source of air pollution. So residents in Huairen are now using lanterns of "e-crackers" to replace them, according to Pang.

He explained that e-crackers are electronic devices that can generate a similar noise to crackers.

"During the Spring Festival period, we used to welcome our visitors by firing crackers," Pang said." (But) it could emit polluting fumes and scare children."

"Now people push a button on e-crackers to welcome guests, which have quieter noise and create no pollution at all," Pang said. "Spring Festival celebrations are becoming increasingly environmentally friendly nowadays."

In the city of Taiyuan, a new option for families is to spend their holiday trying out novel experiences. For instance, the Jinyuan Rice Farming Park is popular among children and parents.

Even in winter, where scenes of rice farming are not available, visitors get an idea of how rice grows by watching an augmented reality show in the park's museum.

In addition to learning about rice farming, visitors are offered interactive experiences like making various snacks with rice as an ingredient.

While the old county seat of Taiyuan, a reopened tourist destination in the provincial capital, used a traditional lantern show to attract visitors, the village of Jiajiazhuang in the city of Fenyang held a dinosaur-themed lantern show to draw in children and their parents.

In the northern Shanxi city of Datong, the New Year holiday was celebrated with an enthusiasm in winter sports, thanks to the ongoing 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games.

On Feb 5, Wanlong Baidengshan Ski Resort in the northeast of Datong was crowded with skiers. Dai Yuxing, 14, was among them.

"Practicing various sports is my favorite way to spend Spring Festival," Yuxing said. "And my choice this year is skiing. Experiencing the speed of skiing is the most exciting thing for me."

Wanlong Baidengshan is host to a two-month-long winter sports festival. Through this event, the resort's authorities estimate that it could receive more than 200,000 visits this winter.

In addition to ski resorts in the suburbs, the moat around the city wall of Datong has been turned into a public skating venue.

Li Shu and Wang Pei contributed to this story.

A paper-cut artist in Changzhi teaches a child. LI NING/FOR CHINA DAILY

Women in Zuoquan county produce toy tigers. XING LANFU/FOR CHINA DAILY


Changzhi - Eshanxi