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Year of Monkey celebrations in full swing
( 2004-01-26 08:41) (China Daily)

Celebrations for the traditional Chinese Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, in the Year of the Monkey are in full swing.

Temple fairs, a traditional place people visit during the holidays, are still popular with the masses.

Beijing has opened 10 temple fairs this year, and lotteries with cars as the biggest prize in the temple fairs have attracted a lot of people.

Though gale-force winds have swept the capital since last Friday, people intent on visiting temple fairs have been not bothered.

Insiders estimated that at least 500,000 people visited temple fairs on the first day of the Year of the Monkey.

Large crowds at temple fairs have not only brought the fair sponsors nearly one-third of their yearly income, but have also meant positive repercussions for retail businesses, nearby restaurants and even taxi drivers.

The Beijing News quoted an anonymous taxi driver who said he earned 400 yuan (US$48.20) on Thursday because of the temple fairs, double what he would have made on a regular day.

Having a reunion dinner on the eve of the Lunar New Year is another important tradition.

A survey conducted in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou showed that half of the surveyed people still regard reunion dinners as the most important tradition during the Spring Festival.

And people nowadays prefer having the dinner at restaurants instead of at home, as was the case in the past.

Most restaurants in Beijing were full at 6 pm on the eve of the Lunar New Year.

"It is very difficult to book a place at the restaurants on the eve,'' said Wang Renfeng, who planned to dine outside on the eve with his family in Beijing.

While sticking to these traditions, people are also adopting new folk customs for a change.

Sending short messages via mobile phones has become a popular way to send festive greetings in recent years in urban China.

The latest statistics show that in Beijing, at least 100 million short messages were sent between Wednesday noon and the early hours of Thursday.

In Shanghai, 150 million short messages were sent during that time.

Mobile phone service providers estimated that the number of short messages sent during the first seven days of the Lunar New Year around the country may well exceed last year's total of 7 billion to reach 10 billion.

The PC camera is another digital product that is popular during the holidays, because families with members overseas count on it to see loved ones over the Internet.

But there has also been some sad news during this joyful holiday.

Two people were killed because of burning fireworks and firecrackers in Beijing, the Beijing Daily reported.

Sources with Tongren Hospital were quoted saying the hospital has received 36 patients who were injured by fireworks between 6 pm Wednesday and 6 am Thursday.

Among the patients, two were seriously injured, 14 slightly injured, and one had an eye removed, the report said.

Meanwhile, the city's firefighting departments have been busy as well.

The Beijing Daily reported that firefighting departments have received a total of 444 fire alarm calls, and 141 of them have been confirmed to have occurred.

Mostly because of fireworks and dry weather, the 141 fires fortunately did not cause serious losses, the report said.

Firefighting departments warned that today and the Lantern Festival, which falls on February 5, will probably see a rise in fire alarms.

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