Chinese people respond to the call to spend the Spring Festival holiday in situ
48 million more people than last year opted to celebrate the Spring Festival where they were
By Hu Fan  ·  2021-03-01  ·   Source: VOL.13 March 2021
Volunteers help the elderly whose children could not come home for reunion hang New Year decorations in Feixi, Anhui Province in east China, on February 10 (XINHUA)

It was the first time for Yao Qiuxin to spend the Spring Festival in a place other than her home and without the presence of her family. Born in Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province in east China, Yao has lived in Beijing since 2012 when she became a college student there. Like most Chinese, she would come home for reunion each Spring Festival.

Her decision to stay in Beijing during the Spring Festival this year was made after the government called for people across the country to celebrate the festival where they are to cope with a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. The Spring Festival travel rush in China is described as "the greatest annual human migration" by media. To reduce the risk of the epidemic spread, Yao felt obliged to do her part.

Like Yao, many people across the country voluntarily answered the call. A State Council statement released on February 10 said that 48 million more people than last year opted to celebrate the Spring Festival where they were, according to a preliminary survey conducted in 36 big and medium-sized cities.

Mineworkers have Spring Festival dinner together in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in north China, on February 11 (XINHUA)

Gatherings with friends

Though no family member or relative in Beijing to reunite with, Yao wouldn't spend the holiday without a celebration. For the family reunion dinner, the 26-year-old girl paired with a good friend from Shenyang, Liaoning Province in northeast China, who also stayed in Beijing because of the same reason. It would be convenient for them to order takeaways for the Lunar New Year eve dinner, but they cooked it by themselves so that it would appear more ceremonial.

Yao was impressed by how different the New Year traditions can be between her hometown, Shaoxing in Zhejiang Province of east China, and her friend's. For the first time in her life, she had dumplings at midnight, following Shenyang tradition.

One thing that didn't go as she had wished was her plan to watch movies on the first day of the New Year, when several good movies were to be released. The tickets were all booked and she had to wait till the second day.

The rest of her holiday was basically made up of sleeping, eating, taking walks and shopping in supermarkets. "Pretty much the same as it would be if I returned home," she joked, "except that I am more relaxed at home than here, because I may have to return to work anytime."

Yao works for the National Center for the Performing Arts as a translator. During the past Spring Festival, the center was open to audience and the staff took turns to be on duty, providing enough shows to satisfy the needs of those staying in the city.

Yao said although she missed her family very much, she would not risk going home until the situation turns better. "It was not safe enough to return home during the Spring Festival," she told ChinAfrica, referring to the epidemic situation in neighboring Hebei Province and new cases found in the capital city in January.

She was offered free doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the community in late January, but she had to postpone the shots due to the history of convulsion, a contraindication of the vaccine. This made her more cautious.

Moviegoers watch the movie Hi, Mom in Beijing on February 17 (XINHUA)

Doing one's part

For Wang Rixuan, a 40-year-old deliveryman working for a courier company in Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province in east China, there was one more consideration: Could he return to work on time if he went home for the holiday?

Last year, he drove back to his hometown in Hubei Province with his wife and daughter before the Spring Festival, and was stuck in the province for two months after it was locked down.

When he was told about the call of the government, he volunteered to stay in Jiaxing, while his two partners opted to go home. He thought that he could not risk being held back after another lockdown, however unlikely it was this year. "Besides, our services were especially needed during this Spring Festival," he said.

Partly due to the large number of people spending the festival away from home, there was a great increase in the volume of packages, especially for food and daily necessities. Data from the State Post Bureau shows that the holiday registered the delivery of 660 million packages, 260 percent more than the number of last Spring Festival holiday.

Handling the workload of three people, Wang had a busy holiday, but the income was good. For different days of the holiday, the wage rate for him was raised two to four times. This helped him partly make up for the loss of last year.

Despite the busy work, the family didn't forget to make time for celebrating the festival. They were invited to a friend's home for family dinner, and they sent greetings to their family through a video on WeChat in which their 8-year-old daughter read greetings they wrote.

This, however, didn't dispel Wang's wish to reunite with the bigger family. He plans to go home with his family when the situation turns better.

They may not have to wait for long. Except for one positive case found in Hebei Province on February 15, the seven-day Spring Festival holiday registered no other new local cases across the country. On February 18, the first working day after the holiday, the country announced that it had no high-risk areas, leaving only four medium-risk areas. CA

(Print Edition Title: A Different Celebration)

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