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BEIJING — Individuals throughout China rang within the Lunar New Yr on Sunday with massive household gatherings and crowds visiting temples after the federal government lifted its strict “zero-COVID” coverage, marking the largest festive celebration because the pandemic started three years in the past.

The Lunar New Yr is an important annual vacation in China. Every year is known as after one of many 12 indicators of the Chinese language zodiac in a repeating cycle, with this yr being the Yr of the Rabbit. For the previous three years, celebrations had been muted within the shadow of the pandemic.

With the easing of most COVID-19 restrictions, many individuals might lastly make their first journey again to their hometowns to reunite with their households with out worrying in regards to the hassles of quarantine, potential lockdowns and suspension of journey. Bigger public celebrations additionally returned for what is called the Spring Pageant in China, with the capital internet hosting hundreds of cultural occasions — on a bigger scale than a yr in the past.

The mass motion of individuals might trigger the virus to unfold in sure areas, mentioned Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist at China’s Heart for Illness Management. However a large-scale COVID-19 surge can be unlikely within the subsequent two or three months as a result of about 80% of the nation’s 1.4 billion folks have been contaminated through the current wave, he wrote on the social media platform Weibo on Saturday.

In Beijing, many worshippers supplied morning prayers on the Lama Temple however the crowds seemed to be smaller in comparison with pre-pandemic days. The Tibetan Buddhist web site permits as much as 60,000 guests a day, citing security causes, and requires an advance reservation.

At Taoranting Park, there was no signal of the same old bustling New Yr meals stalls regardless of its walkways being embellished with conventional Chinese language lanterns. A well-liked temple honest at Badachu Park can be again this week, however related occasions at Ditan Park and Longtan Lake Park have but to return.

In Hong Kong, revelers flocked to the town’s largest Taoist temple, Wong Tai Sin Temple, to burn the primary incense sticks of the yr. The location’s well-liked ritual was suspended the final two years as a result of pandemic.

Historically, huge crowds collect earlier than 11 p.m. on Lunar New Yr’s Eve, with everybody making an attempt to be the primary, or among the many first, to place their incense sticks into the stands in entrance of the temple’s principal corridor. Worshippers consider those that are among the many first to put their incense sticks will stand one of the best likelihood of getting their prayers answered.

Native resident Freddie Ho, who visited the temple on Saturday night time, was joyful that he might be a part of the occasion in individual.

“I hope to put the primary incense stick and pray that the New Yr brings world peace, that Hong Kong’s financial system will prosper, and that the pandemic will go away from us and we will all dwell a standard life,” Ho mentioned. “I consider that is what everybody needs.”

Related Press researcher Henry Hou and video journalist Emily Wang in Beijing and video journalist Alice Fung in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

Discover extra of AP’s Asia-Pacific protection at

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