BEIJING -- People across China toasted and celebrated on Thursday night with hopes that the festive glee would mark the start of a better new year.
The Chinese Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, falls on Friday this year. Most Chinese people were busy preparing family dinners on Thursday and planned to spend the evening enjoying sumptuous banquets, colorful fireworks and chats with family members while watching TV galas.
In Ruijin City of east China's Jiangxi Province, Wang Yong, a young man who works in Beijing, the nation's capital, rushed back home one day before the Lunar New Year Eve.
"I haven't come back home for almost a year. Spring Festival is the most important Chinese festival for family reunion and I've been looking forward to having dishes cooked by my mom," said Wang.
In Luobei County of Hegang City in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, which suffered heavy flooding last fall, people in the worst-hit township of Zhaoxing are celebrating the new year by lighting fireworks and hanging red lanterns at their front doors.
In villager Chen Xiangyu's house, his mother prepared all kinds of New Year delicacies, including two chickens and five kilograms of fish for the family.
"Although we suffered the flood earlier, with the subsidies given by local government, we can celebrate the biggest festival of the year just as usual," said Fu Xiang, Chen's mother.
In Nanning Fourth People's Hospital in southwest China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Du Liqun, head nurse of the AIDS department, was busy preparing new year gifts for severe patients who were not able to spend the holiday at home.
"It's our duty to take care of the patients. Our best wish for them is to get better in the coming year," Du said.
This year, there were fewer patients staying in the hospital on the Lunar New Year Eve than in previous years, which was good news for the medical workers.
"There were usually dozens of patients here on new year eve, but today there are only nine. Although we have less company for the festival, we are still happy for those patients who were discharged from the hospital," Du said.
Many young people in China have found a new way to greet friends using Wechat, a popular smartphone messaging app. They have been using their mobile phones to send electronic versions of "hongbao," the traditional red envelopes of money given during the holiday. People who receive the e-hongbao can cash the money by linking their debit cards to Wechat.
"Maybe there's not much money since most of the e-hongbao are only worth 5 to 10 yuan, but it's an interesting way to interact with your friends and just have some fun," said Li Zhen, a white-collar worker in Beijing.