From the southernmost islands to the icebound provinces in the north, people across China are celebrating the lunar new year, or Spring Festival which falls on Monday.

Liu Chao and his wife from an impoverished village in southwest China’s Guizhou Province have been preparing for the new year’s eve dinner the whole day.

The couple cooked 18 dishes for the most important meal in the year, such as home-made smoked pork and pickles, fresh vegetables they planted and ham sausage bought in a supermarket. Fruits, candies and soda were also on the table.

Their children gathered around the table and waited eagerly for the dinner to begin. For the first time they were not scolded for sneaking food.

“As life is getting better, dishes are richer than before,” said Luo Yanhong, the wife.

After the dinner, Chang Xiaolu in Shanghai began packing for a family trip to Hainan Province in south China. “The climate there is warm and pleasant, especially suitable for my aged parents, and we set out tomorrow,” Chang said.

While in north China’s Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, self-driving travellers have gathered to experience the feeling of snow and ice.

The regional tourism bureau said various options including winter sports, prairie customs performance and hot spring are offered for urban dwellers who want a city getaway during the holiday.

For most Chinese, the new year’s eve is dedicated to the four-hour-long gala that started at 8 p.m. on the state broadcaster. This year, many of them held a smartphone in hand for “gift money”.

Chinese Internet giants including Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu gave out more than 1 billion yuan ($152 million) as gift money on the night to woo as many mobile payment users as possible.

Villagers in Qingcheng Township, east China’s Shandong Province, where smartphone are not so popular, however, preferred an original gala that was staged by themselves.

People from five villages performed dancing, opera singing, standing comedy and even magic shows in a courtyard, which was completely packed with people despite the biting cold.

The gala in Dongdazhang Village began in 1950s and 60s, and has evolved from a local opera gathering to an annual variety show that attracts audience from nearby villages.

In the mountainous Sichuan Province, rural residents in Qishan Village were having a house-warming time just before the lunar new year.

The local government invested 550 million yuan last year to help 8,297 households living in dilapidated homes move into new homes.

“A new house and brand new furniture, I have dreamed about it all my life and now it has come true,” said 70-year-old Chen Mingquan.

Fishermen in one of China’s southernmost islands of Yongxing, Sansha City poured wine and laid out offerings at a port to worship their predecessors.

After midnight, the Year of Monkey begins. It’s another year of hard work and expectation.

Feb. 8, 2016 on China Daily

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