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Lunar festival means really big spending
( 2004-01-19 22:54) (China Daily)

For most Chinese, far and away the most important traditional occasion -- Spring Festival -- means a precious but far from cheap family reunion.

Urban Chinese tend to spend 1,500 to 3,000 yuan (US$183-366) per household on average on festival costs, a survey taken by the Beijing-based Society Survey Institute of China indicates. It was conducted in 10 cities across the country, such as Beijing, and East China's Shanghai and Guangzhou, the capital of South China's Guangdong Province.

Most of the money will be spent on gifts for families, relatives, friends and business associates, and on money given to children as new year's gifts in a unique Spring Festival tradition of Chinese wishing prosperity for their children.

But passing the festival is more complicated than giving or spending money.

"This year's purchase are the most exhausting in my memory,'' said 62-year-old Lin Min, a retired accountant in Beijing, who has been rushing among department stores and supermarkets to do festival-related shopping.

On her shopping list are dozens of gifts, decorations to spice up her home's atmosphere, and, of course,a wide range of food.

Lin used to have her son to run errands for her. But this year, her son had no time for that.

In most cases, the Chinese New Year falls in February, but this festival -- the year of the Monkey -- falls in late January when most people might still be stuck in new year's spring cleaning.

"The shopping is like taking on a battle,'' Lin said. "It's really killing me.''

Luckily, Lin has found a satisfactory substitute for her greatest challenge of the year -- the family reunion dinner on New Year's Eve, so she won't be "pushed over the edge.''

Instead of cooking by herself, she has hired cooks from a famous restaurant to cook at her place.

"I originally planned to eat at a restaurant, but my families disagreed,'' she said. "They want a real family thing.''

However, even if Lin would like to have a dinner outside at a decent restaurant, she might not be able to do it at such a late date.

"I have called Quanjude and Donglaishun today for the eve dinner, but got nothing but apologies,'' said Wang Xu, a lawyer in Beijing. "I should have called earlier.''

Having the Eve dinner with family is still the most favoured way of marking the occasion,the survey indicated.

Of the 2,000 people who took part in the survey, 46.5 per cent said the dinner "one most desired thing in a year.''

The survey says 63 per cent of the country's urban population will travel for fun during the holidays this year.

In spite of increasing favour over exotic destinations, Zhang Cuiping, a publicity official with northern Beijing's Yanqing County, said the most popular area for travel will be suburban Beijing for "quality pleasure at reasonable cost.''

"Many cottages at the two skiing resorts, Shijinglong and Badaling, have been booked for New Year's Eve and for the New Year,'' said Zhang.

Although the county started its Ice and Snow Festival on January 1, Zhang believed the tourist peak will come during Spring Festival, when "more local people have time and are more willing to pay.''

The county, as well as the other counties and districts of Beijing, have offered colourful entertainment, such as skiing, skating, ice lanterns and delicious meals.

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