BEIJING, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- The 2024 Spring Festival is just around the corner, and people across China are embracing the festive atmosphere in the run-up to the most important occasion of family reunions.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, visited residents in Tianjin, including villagers affected by floods last summer, and talked with shop owners and employees at an ancient culture street during his inspection tour in the municipality from Feb. 1 to 2.
Since assuming the Party's top post in November 2012, Xi has made it a tradition to spend time with members of the public ahead of the Spring Festival, especially those in disadvantaged groups, extending festive greetings to them.
During past visits, he has brought gifts of festive goods, joined local people making festive foods, and practiced Spring Festival customs.
Xi has been joining various people in the preparation of foods during his inspection trips ahead of the Spring Festival.
During this time of year, the residents of Shenshan Village in Jinggangshan City, east China's Jiangxi Province, are always busy preparing glutinous rice cakes known as "ciba." The flat, round sweet treats symbolize family gatherings and are believed to bring good luck for the new year.
Inspecting the village tucked away in the Jinggangshan Mountains before the 2016 Spring Festival, Xi joined a group of locals who were making ciba. After pounding the glutinous rice with a mallet for some time, Xi joked that doing so for more than 10 minutes each day could be a good workout.
Before the Spring Festival in 2019, Zhu Maojin's family welcomed Xi into their home to make dumplings during his visit to the old "hutong" neighborhoods in central Beijing. Dumplings, a festival necessity, embody best wishes for an auspicious future.
Xi chatted happily with locals as he made dumplings with them, asking about their festival purchases and the improvements to their living conditions following a renovation project.
During an inspection trip in north China's Shanxi Province in January 2022, Xi joined Shi Hongbing and his family as they were preparing "nianmo," a local type of steamed bun that carries blessings for the Spring Festival. Xi visited them in their new home, which was built after the area was hit by floods months before.
Twisting dough into a strip, curling both ends to resemble a flower and placing two dried jujubes on top, Xi made his own nianmo. As he examined the various shapes and colors of the local treats he and Shi's family had made, he said, "They make people feel that each year is moving upward, and they represent our people's aspirations for better lives."
"I care particularly about grassroots officials and the people as we ring in the new year," Xi once said. Ahead of the festival, he has offered goods and advice to the people he has visited during his multiple inspections.
The day before the eve of the 2013 Spring Festival, Xi paid a visit to the temporary home of steel fixer Fan Yong at a construction site of Beijing Subway Line 8.
Xi asked the migrant worker about his income and living conditions, suggested that he take his family to tour Beijing during the holiday, and gave Fan's 6-year-old daughter a pink schoolbag as a gift.
During his pre-festival tour in February 2015, Xi met with old acquaintances in Liangjiahe Village in Shaanxi Province, where he had spent seven years as a teenager and young man.
"Xi brought festival essentials for locals, including rice, flour, meat and cooking oil, as well as Spring Festival couplets and paintings," Zhang Weipang said, recalling the reunion with his old friend.
Xi brought not only presents with him on these trips, but also solutions to poverty and the wisdom of the importance of cultural preservation.
In January 2017, Xi visited Zhangbei County in north China's Hebei Province. At the home of farmer Xu Haicheng, Xi spoke with Xu and his family to calculate the ways by which they could escape poverty.
"Sitting on our sofa, the general secretary counted every single one of our incomes and expenses, and helped us figure out how to increase our wealth," Xu said, remembering the day he had welcomed Xi into his home. "He encouraged us to grow and expand the potato industry."
Following Xi's advice, Xu's family was lifted out of poverty the next year and the village has been improving.
Before the Spring Festival in February 2021, Xi traveled winding mountain roads to arrive at a small village inhabited by people of the Miao ethnic group in southwest China's Guizhou Province.
He entered a workshop that had been established to help locals overcome poverty, and the exquisite, handmade Miao embroidery garments and ornaments caught his attention.
"Miao embroidery is traditional, but it is also fashionable," Xi said. He encouraged the people in the workshop to carry forward their craft.
Over the years, Xi has also shown a keen interest in local festive customs during his pre-festival inspection tours.
In January 2020, he paid a visit to Simola Wa Village, a 500-year-old Wa ethnic group village in Tengchong City, southwest China's Yunnan Province. In a village square, he beat a wooden Wa drum three times in accordance with local customs to wish for bumper harvest, peace and prosperity.
Simola means "a place of happiness" in the local language. For villager Li Fashun, Xi's visit to his home was one of the happiest moments in his life.
"I have trouble walking. When I went up to greet him, the general secretary gestured from way off in the distance, reminding me to move slowly. I felt warmth instantly," Li recalled.
During his pre-festival trip to Shanxi in 2022, Xi traveled through mountains, crossed the Fenhe River and traveled down a meandering road to arrive at Duancun Village in Fenxi County. In the village's cultural square, he watched a vibrant "yangko" dance attuned to locally renowned music played live and mainly using gongs and drums. Xi hailed the performance, calling the local art and culture truly magnificent.
Inspecting Tianjin's Ancient Culture Street on Feb. 1, Xi joined locals and tourists enjoying dragon dance and lion dance performances. There, Xi extended lunar new year greetings to the residents of Tianjin and people of all ethnic groups in the country.
Noting that the coming lunar new year is the Year of the Dragon, Xi said that in Chinese culture, the dragon has connotations such as courage, infinite vitality and good luck, and carries people's aspirations for the future. "Everyone should have confidence in the coming year and live better lives." ■