Chinese give Year of the Horse a toned-down welcome

Thu Jan 30, 2014 1:35pm EST
 
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By Ben Blanchard and John Ruwitch

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese welcomed the arrival of the Year of the Horse with toned down celebrations on Thursday, as people heeded government pleas to set off fewer of the fireworks believed to bring good fortune, because of concern about air pollution.

Chinese New Year, which begins on Friday, is normally marked by riotous displays of fireworks and countless firecrackers, which are thought to bring good luck and scare off evil spirits.

The fireworks blacken the skies with smoke for hours.

With smog blanketing parts of northern, central and eastern China, including Beijing and the commercial hub of Shanghai, some people decided that a more subdued display was in order.

While Beijing reverberated with fireworks and firecrackers, state media said sales had fallen and some residents said they would not be buying as many.

"This is not good for the environment, it's not good for the air," said resident Lao Song. "Last year, I spent about 300 yuan ($50) on fireworks, but I only bought about 100 yuan's worth this year."

Zhang Debi and his wife, Fang Lina, said their fireworks stall in Shanghai's leafy former French Concession area had only sold half as many fireworks as last year.

"People are still going to light some fireworks because the holiday atmosphere just wouldn't be right without them," said Fang. "But if too many are lit off, then that wouldn't be good either."   Continued...

 
Traditional dancers perform during the opening of the temple fair for the Chinese New Year celebrations at Ditan Park, also known as the Temple of Earth, in Beijing January 30, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon