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Chinese families, friends mark Lunar New Year in 'homes away from home'
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11:35, February 07, 2008

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Feng Li, 20, and her mother, who hail from the central province of Hubei, are both nursemaids working through the Jinzhuyou Service Agency in Beijing. Always busy working to make ends meet, the two haven't reunited for a Lunar New Year's Eve for years.

This time it's finally different.

"My employer gave me one day off on the Lunar New Year's eve. I will stay here and have a reunion dinner with mom," said Feng. Her mother is also at leisure, since her employer is spending the holiday in the United States. Not surprisingly, they chose a Hubei restaurant near the agency.

Staying with employers or at service agencies, this year many migrant housekeepers chose to celebrate Lunar New Year in Beijing.

According to Director Zhang Bilan with the Beijing Heping Home Service Center, it is estimated that 1,000 housemaids and 40 part-time maids will stay at the center Wednesday night.

"Salaries usually rise during the holidays. Some employers will even give the maids holiday bonuses and buy them clothes," said a receptionist surnamed Jia at the Jinzhuyou agency.

To ensure a harmonious New Year's celebration for these employees, the center has prepared programs, including a dinner party, karaoke singing and traditional firecrackers.

As migrant workers stream home during the traditional holidays, tickets become hard to get and transport is overloaded. This year, the bad weather made the situation far worse. Governments at all levels called on migrant workers and students to spend the New Year in the cities where they work or study.

At 69 universities in the eastern Jiangxi Province, more than 2,000 students chose to spend their Spring Festival holidays on campus.

On the day before New Year's Eve, officials with the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education went to Tsinghua University and made traditional dumplings together with the students.

"It's been no electricity and water back at home for days," said Huang Zhiming, a heat energy major student whose hometown, Chenzhou in the central province of Hunan, was worst-hit by the severe winter weather.

"Now I don't feel that woeful being stranded here since the school's made considerate arrangements for our daily life," said Huang.

The education commission created 1,200 jobs for students who stayed behind over the holidays to support their school and living expenses.

In southern Guangdong Province, besides the basics such as food, clothes, electricity and heat, many colleges also guaranteed Internet services, telephones and entertainment for students on campus.

Many companies in Guangdong, Shanghai and other snow-hit areas also made similar promises to employees during the Spring Festival.

As the weather began to ease in recent days, some families have also chosen to reunite away from home.

For example, Qian Junni, a college girl from eastern Jiangsu Province, stayed in Beijing during the winter holiday for an internship.

"I thought I might have spent a lonely Spring Festival here," said Qian. "But my parents came all the way from Jiangsu to Beijing to spend the Spring Festival with me together!"

She continued: "Northern food is too salty and spicy for them. We need to find a perfect place for this New Year's Eve dinner."

Source: Xinhua

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