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The universal appeal of the lunar new year

Source: China Daily | 02-26-2007 10:35

Special Report:   2007 Spring Festival

The sudden, sputtering sound of fireworks exploding inside the farmhouse jolted Ted Maloney awake on Chinese New Year's Day. The time? 5 am.

Maloney, 55, an American who teaches at the Beijing Foreign Studies University, had traveled with his student, Chen Ping, to Dagang village in East China's Jiangsu Province to celebrate the holiday. And Chen's family of six treated their guest to a traditional Chinese celebration, explosions and all.

Chen Ping's father, a 45-year-old migrant worker, set off the fireworks early on New Year's Day. It is believed that the sound of the blasts drives off ghosts and evil spirits.

"I am very happy that this year I could come here. The family is very warm and generous," Maloney said.

He said that last year he stayed at a hotel in Chengdu in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, but instead of a vibrant celebration he found only shuttered shops and empty streets.

"What makes the festival interesting is how people in rural areas prepare traditional food," he said.

"It is like a combination of Christmas, Halloween, Easter and Independence Day (the United States' national day)," Maloney said of the Chinese traditional festival.

"Kids go door to door to get candy, and dragon dances are performed throughout the night, which is just like Halloween. And the fact that this holiday takes place during the winter, the family reunions and the constant eating remind me of Christmas," he added.

Chen's family dressed in new coats on Chinese New Year's Day, which Maloney likened to the tradition of wearing new clothes to church on Easter Sunday back in his home country.

"Plus, the fireworks are a lot like Independence Day," he added.