Families have come together to celebrate Lunar New Year in China on Sunday after the government lifted its “zero-COVID” policy, making this year the most significant festive celebration since the pandemic's start in 2020.
The change in the “zero-COVID” policy has removed testing requirements and travel restrictions for travelers entering and leaving China. Those who have tested positive for COVID with minor to no symptoms are allowed to isolate at home instead of in government-supervised facilities.
The easing of COVID restrictions has allowed individuals to travel to their distant families without the concerns of quarantining, lockdowns, and traveling suspensions. Many people have expressed their enthusiasm to be reconciled with their families after three years of separation.
“I’m so looking forward to going home this time,” Sandy Bai said in an article. “I’m grateful I’ll be able to see my whole family.”
Sandy Bai is a young Communications professional living in Hong Kong who hasn’t seen her family in Shanghai since she visited them in 2020 for the Lunar New Year Festival. According to Sandy, one of the biggest reasons she looks forward to seeing her family for the Lunar New Year is because it is a yearly opportunity for her grandparents, parents, siblings, and cousins to meet and share a feast. This year also holds more significant meaning for her as her 87-year-old grandmother has recently recovered from COVID.
The Lunar New Year is considered the most important annual holiday in China. According to Western Calendars, it is an annual 15-day festival that is usually celebrated when the new moon occurs between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20. This yearly celebration lasts until the following full moon.
Every year is named after one of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac in a repeating cycle with this year representing the Year of the Rabbit. Consequently, the pandemic has halted Lunar New Year celebrations and the reunions of families…until this year.
As a result, China has once again opened the door to public celebrations with the Spring Festival, a 7-day long holiday that marks a new year on the lunar calendar. The Capital has hosted thousands of events, including morning prayers at the Lama Temple in Beijing, the burning of incense sticks at Wong Tai Sin Temple in Hong Kong, and residents and tourists celebrating in pedestrian streets in the Qianmen area near Tiananmen Square. Furthermore, many of the celebrations would include the selling of food and children wearing animal masks.
According to Beijing resident Si Jia, the return of tourists makes her feel like life in Beijing is returning to normal. For this reason, she wanted to allow her 7-year-old son to experience the festival and learn more about traditional Chinese culture.
“He has never experienced what a traditional new year is like because he was too young three years ago, and he had no memory of that," she said. "But this year, I can show him around here."
Amid the celebrations, people remain fearful of a potential outbreak due to the lifting of the policy. It has been shown that there has been a rapid increase in cases with “nearly 60,000 COVID-19 related deaths at government health facilities in the period since restrictions were relaxed.” According to China Health Officials, “the majority of deaths were seniors over 65 with underlying diseases.”
Therefore, the rise in cases has caused hospital beds to be filled and many individuals to lose their lives due to a lack of medical treatment. This was the case for Melody Liu, a resident of Beijing, who lost her grandfather earlier this month to COVID.
“It was a chaotic time,” Liu said. “The family couldn't find an intensive care bed for several days. And then, with crematoria and funeral homes filling up, they had to pull strings to find him a final resting place.”
Liu and her family are no longer eager to celebrate Lunar New Year, but they plan to do so for her grandmother, unaware of Liu’s grandfather's passing. They have decided to continue the tradition of Liu buying new clothes for her grandmother and wearing new red dresses for the annual family photos in hopes of a better year, even if it no longer feels the same.
“I'm not looking forward to the New Year anymore because it has been a terrible year for us,” she added.
In sum, lifting the “zero-COVID” policy has been met with great joy as families have reunited for the celebration of the Lunar New Year. On the other hand, it has also been met with great distress as families have experienced loss with the rise of COVID cases. It is unknown if the policy will be placed again. Still, authorities have been working toward achieving a full victory in China’s efforts to combat COVID.
Until then, some families who have suffered from the pandemic no longer wish for fortunes and prosperity to be delivered in the new year. "I wish my family to be safe and sound,” Liu said. “You can have a career and other things if you work hard enough, but you must be lucky to have your family."
Share This Post On
Leave a comment
You need to login to leave a comment. Log-in