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China Heralds a New Year with Fireworks, Family, Food

February 20, 1985

PEKING (AP) _ China erupted in a blaze of fireworks late Tuesday as it shooed out the Year of the Rat and at midnight welcomed the Year of the Ox.

Millions of Chinese across the nation braved sub-freezing weather and took to the streets or leaned out of doorways and windows to set off multicolored rockets and giant sparklers in China’s most raucous holiday.

Hundreds of millions of others gathered around television sets to watch a special six-hour live entertainment show featuring singers from Hong Kong, stand-up comedians and circus acrobats.

New Year’s is China’s main holiday, when people enjoy family reunions and elaborate meals. It is also a time for shopping sprees for food, gifts and fireworks - if one can get through the crowds.

″We’re all sold out of our most popular items, like Imperial Palace cakes,″ said Li Dingmin, manager of the cake department at Peking Department Store on Wangfujing, the capital’s famous shopping street. ″Now people will just buy whatever’s on the shelves.″

Lou Wanxiang, who has worked in the wine and tobacco section of the store since it was founded 29 years ago, looked out over the crowd at the liquor counter and said, ″Most people buy two bottles, one to give away and one for themselves.″

Across the street at the Peking Children’s Toy Store, the most popular gifts were motorized animals and cars, and child-sized copies of new uniforms worn by the People’s Liberation Army, according to attendant Li Guihua, 21.

Residents in snow-covered Peking set off an estimated 110 types of firecrackers this year, up from 80 last year, according to the official news agency Xinhua.

The sky over the Chinese capital flashed brilliantly, with whistle rockets, flares, and exploding missiles soaring up from nearly every building in the city.

PX-02-19-85 2244EST

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