Happy New Year- Chinese Style

China gets ready to ring in the Year of the Dragon

It's New Year's Eve-- in China. The streets of Beijing are quiet today as people hurried home to spend the dawn of the New Year with family and friends. This is suppose to be a lucky year for the Chinese, because it is the Year of the Dragon.

Saturday officially marks the start of the nation's most important holiday of the year. New Year's television specials begin airing this weekend and villages are getting ready to set off firework shows. Family reunions will take place everywhere with feats of steamed dumplings for everyone.

This New Year begins the Year of the Dragon, which is considered by Chinese to be one of the luckiest of the 12-year zodiac. In ancient times, emperors regarded themselves as reincarnations of dragons, and children born during the year are considered blessed. The dawning of the New Year will end the Year of the Rabbit.

The Chinese celebration will continue for the next five days. Families are expected to visit parks and temples that have been decked out with lanterns, dragon statues and stalls selling toys and food. The airlines, railways and buses are busy with activity. In fact, the State media reports that 1.6Billion passengers will travel over the New Year holiday.

Beijing's 11 prisons gave 250 inmates three days of leave with their families as a reward for good behavior.

In Tibet, thousands of Buddhist pilgrims stood in line Thursday to receive blessings from a reincarnated lama at Sera, one of Tibetan Buddhism's most important monasteries, located outside Lhasa, China's state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

In Singapore, where ethnic Chinese make up about 78 percent of the population, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong gave a New Year's speech urging Singaporeans to be more competitive at work to keep up with global competition, but without neglecting their families.

The communist leadership used this occasion to express hope for a reunification with Taiwan.

``At this occasion of reunion for millions of families, we miss our Taiwan compatriots more than ever,'' Premier Zhu Rongji said at a reception to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

In cities across America, the Chinese celebration will be honored with parades and parties.

(Source: Associated Press)

DATE: 2/4/2000

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