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China celebrates traditional Lantern Festival

SHANGHAI--China on Sunday celebrated the traditional Lantern Festival with fireworks and food, as millions of migrant workers flowed back to cities and smog blanketed a large part of the country.

The Lantern Festival formally marks the end of celebrations for the Chinese Lunar New Year period, 15 days after it began, and is celebrated by viewing lanterns and setting off fireworks, among other activities.

The Ministry of Railways estimated around 6.4 million people would make trains journeys on Sunday.

Many of China's migrant workers living in rural areas delay their return to their workplaces beyond the official public holiday, which lasts only a week.

Air pollution in the Chinese capital of Beijing spiked higher on Sunday as more traffic and firework blasts caused smog, China Central Television reported, as local officials urged people to limit the amount of fireworks they set off.

The government issued a smog alert on Sunday for central and eastern parts of China, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Heavy air pollution in recent weeks has been blamed on coal-burning and auto exhaust emissions.

In China's commercial hub of Shanghai, worshippers thronged the Jingan Buddhist Temple, burning incense and tossing coins into a giant urn to make wishes for the coming year.

Shoppers snapped up dumplings made from glutinous rice with sweet or savory fillings, called “tang yuan,” traditionally eaten on the holiday.

“The pork ones sold out early. We can't make enough,” said a clerk at a branch of the famous Shanghai dumpling chain Wang Jia Sha, who offered crab meat or sweet sesame paste alternatives.

Outside Beijing in Yuxian, a rural part of Hebei province, residents marked the festival by holding a parade with a dragon dance and releasing red paper lanterns like small hot-air balloons into the sky.

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Chinese entertainers are watched by a large crowd as they perform a snake dance during the traditional Lantern Festival parade in Yuxian, Sunday, Feb. 24.

(AFP)

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