Lunar New Year festive feasts, firecrackers and strawberries

The Chinese Lunar New Year is less than a month away. As the most important festival in China, it is an ideal time for family and friends to get together.

The Chinese Lunar New Year is less than a month away. As the most important festival in China, it is an ideal time for family and friends to get together, pass on prayers to ancestors and reward the children in our midst with red envelopes.

Many people take advantage of the festival to go away on holiday. And statistics reveal that 344 million visitors took flight or traveled around China during the Spring Festival holiday in 2017, which saw a growth of 13.8 percent from a year earlier. But the majority of Chinese people stay at home and celebrate with friends and family.

Firecrackers may have been banned in the big cities during Chinese New Year but not in the countryside. And Jiande, 108 kilometers southwest of Hangzhou, is one such small county-level city, which offers multifarious festive activities with firecrackers. It is also a pastoral escape for urban people wanting to get away from the stresses of the daily grind.

Shanghai Daily recommends three ways of enjoying Jiande for the upcoming Spring Festival and how to celebrate it like a local.

Yuquan Temple

Burning incense and striking the bell at Yuquan Temple

For many locals, the first day of the Chinese New Year is a time to visit temples to pray for health and prosperity for the family. If you are in Jiande, Yuquan Temple is the place to go.

Situated on the south side of Wulong Mountain, in the historical Meicheng Town, the temple was originally built during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) by Monk Shaokang.

Hidden in the lush vegetation of the mountain, the temple has been damaged by war and unrest several times in its history. The present one was restored in 2011 with the consecration rituals being held at the same time.

The stone-carved Amitabha statue, enshrined in the Amida Hall, is one of the few historic relics left in the temple.

And the Lunar New Year’s worship entails a complete set of ceremonial procedures, including burning incense sticks in front of the main hall and visiting each Buddhist deity in the hall clockwise.

On Lunar New Year’s Eve, the temple is usually open until midnight as people queue to strike the bell. Locals believe that being among the first to strike the bell will ensure they have the best of luck for the whole year.

How to get there from Shanghai: G60 Expressway – G60N Expressway – Yangcunqiao Exit – Yangmei Line – follow road signs till you reach Meicheng Town

Children gather at a local ancestral hall during the Spring Festival.

Having Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner at Kangqing Farmstead

The dinner on Chinese New Year’s Eve is a pivotal event among the festivities celebrated during the Spring Festival. In Jiande, slaughtering a pig is another big thing for every household.

The slaughter traditionally takes place in the last month of the lunar calendar and it takes three to four adults to complete it. The animal is killed and then placed on a long wooden stool and bathed in hot water to remove the hair.

A pork banquet will usually follow, while the pig’s head is saved for the ancestor worship on New Year’s Eve.

People also start preparing niangao, a rice cake generally taken at breakfast, on the first day of the year, with a homophonous meaning of “increasingly prosperous year in and year out.”

In the Kangqing Farmstead, beside Xin’an River, you can still see how locals make traditional niangao by beating the cooked rice powder in a large stone mortar.

The food market is also worth a visit. You can also find, not only fresh vegetables and meat but, unique preserved food, dried food, local wine and a variety of rice-made products.

On the last day of the year, people will clean their houses as it is considered bad luck to use the broom in the New Year. Traditionally every household will write, or ask someone to write, spring couplets to decorate the doorways.

The village operas also stage open-air concerts, where you can enjoy authentic theatrical performances that have remained unchanged for hundreds of years.

How to get there from Shanghai: G60 Expressway – G60N Expressway – Yangcunqiao Exit – G320 – Xiaya Town – Kangqing Farmstead

Strawberry picking in Jiande

Picking fresh strawberries in Yangcunqiao Town

On January 13, the 10th China Strawberry Festival was disclosed at the Yangcunqiao Town in Jiande. It also saw the official launching of 18 strawberry cultivars all planted locally.

The town has long been related with strawberry growing and is now the largest produce area for the greenhouse strawberry, with a cultivating area of more than 820 acres.

Benefiting from the local Xin’an River, the strawberries here taste juicy and sweet. In recent years, sightseeing parks have been set up and strawberry picking tours are offered as an extra service.

If you want to escape the smoke and din of the New Year celebrations, Yangqiaocun for strawberry picking and fresh air is a perfect way to end the Spring Festival holiday.

The strawberries picked can all be delivered to your home.

How to get there from Shanghai: G60 Expressway – G60N Expressway – Yangcunqiao Exit – Yangcunqiao Town

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