China's first Mid-Autumn holiday helps fulfill wishes for family reunions

BEIJING, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- Millions of Chinese have used this year's mid-Autumn Festival, which fell on Sunday, to get together with family and loved ones.

This year the Chinese government made the festival a three-day national holiday for the first time.

Railways and buses from Chengdu, capital in southwest China's Sichuan Province, carried 180,000 people to quake-battered cities in the province on the first day of the holiday on Saturday, according to the transport authority.

"The holiday gave us a break from work to go back home to see my parents in Shifang City, after it was hit by the earthquake in May," said a man surnamed Li, while waiting in a crowded bus terminal in Chengdu.

Radio broadcast at the terminal reported travel was difficult, because of repairs on the road or damage from the earthquake. Home-going passengers, many holding packages of mooncakes, stood waiting.

Li said the passengers shared a common understanding that the festival's tradition of family values made the trip home more meaningful, and people with painful memories of the disasters cherished such chance.

Elsewhere in the country, people preferred to share the holiday feeling at home or on short family trips to tourist spots, instead of going far for travel, according to travel agencies.

Leading Chinese travel services like China Travel Service and CCT Travel reported slack booking for Mid-Autumn travels.

A staffer at the CCT Travel's office in scenic Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southwest China said that travel for the week-long National Day holiday in Oct. was booked up. However, the business in the Mid-Autumn holiday was sluggish.

Liao Wei, manager of the Chongqing Office of China Travel Service, said that the company had planned in vain to open some new routes featuring the Mid-Autumn activities.

"We thought of something like a full-moon observing tour of scenic spots, but the market reaction to such ideas was bad," he said.

He said that after devastating disasters this year, Chinese people preferred a peaceful and consoling break such as family reunions over long-distance travels.

Folk experts held that the Mid-Autumn Festival is second only to the Spring Festival, or China's Lunar New Year, in conveying the core value of the Chinese nation -- family values.

This was why some law makers like Fan Yi, rector of the Foreign Languages College of Ningbo University in east China's Zhejiang Province, proposed to turn the festival into a national holiday last year.

"The Mid-Autumn holiday has the power to ease the home-bound travel spree in the Spring Festival, and help revive traditional values in the modern time," he said.

The festival tradition reminds people living far away from their native lands for better education conditions or better-paid jobs to go back to their family roots, he said.

The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, falls on the 15th day of August on the lunar calendar. It is celebrated in many Asian countries.

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