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Loss of traditions, Western inroads lamented in China
Updated: 2006-02-06 08:52

While Spring Festival firecrackers have been popping and the Lantern Festival is coming up, traditionalists lament what they call the lack of spiritual content and the rising superficial observation of foreign holidays.

"Globalization, urbanization and commercialization have been erasing traditional Chinese rituals and celebrations," said Henan University Professor Gao Youpeng, who posted a declaration about reclaiming traditional Chinese values on the Web. The positive response was enormous.

"The Chinese are discarding the cultural meaning, spiritual values and psychological effects of many festivals to air grievances and relieve stress," said Guo, a folklore scholar.

His Declaration to Safeguard the Spring Festival was posted before the holiday beginning on January 29. He called on the nation to protect vulnerable Chinese festivals.

Traditions were suppressed during the cultural revolution (1966-76) and more recently, fireworks were banned in many cities because of injuries. These bans were lifted in many cities ! to public acclaim ! before Spring Festival. Beijing, the capital, lifted its 12-year ban.

Some experts believe that the ban diminished the excitement of traditional festivals so that more young people turned to seasonal foreign celebrations, like Christmas and New Year in the Gregorian Calendar.

At least the trappings ! red lanterns, dumplings, fireworks and the traditional three-word greeting of "Guo Nian Hao" ! Happy New Year ! have lived on in the Spring Festival.

Modern Chinese have been rediscovering the traditional fun of the festival about two decades after the country opened up to the world and exposed itself to many other cultures. Still, some worry that the essence has been diminished.

"Some cities ban burning fireworks; some urbanites no longer post traditional red papers with auspicious words; some buy frozen dumplings instead of making the tasty traditional food which represents family union itself," said Dang Xichen, a student at Zhengzhou University.

"All these changes prove that our traditional festivals need protection. I don't know what else we can celebrate if we lose interest in the Spring Festival," said Dang.

For thousands of years, burning fireworks has been believed to ward off evil. It is said Chinese ancestors first burned bamboo, which made pitter-patter sounds, to celebrate the harvest.

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