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Wuhan celebrates the Year of the Rabbit as the COVID-19 grief continues

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Three years after a once-mysterious virus entered the Chinese city of Wuhan in a terrifying lockdown, residents started Saturday evening the New Year according to the traditional lunar calendar, celebrating the coming of the Year of the Rabbit with fireworks and flowers, and offerings to loved ones they lost to COVID-19.

However, while many stocked up on colorful blooms at the bustling flower market on Saturday to welcome the Lunar New Year and enjoy the Spring Festival, others had a sadder reason: to mourn loved ones lost in the latest wave of cases.

“I have friends and family who died during this time,” a 54-year-old man, who gave his name only as Zhang, told Agence France-Presse as he held a bunch of chrysanthemums, which symbolize sadness in Chinese. the culture.

He explained that the New Year’s custom in Hubei Province, of which Wuhan is the capital, is to visit the homes of people who have recently died to offer flowers and burn incense as an offering.

At midnight many residents did just that, with street vendors doing brisk business selling chrysanthemums and other offerings into the wee hours of Sunday.

At the same time, fireworks and flares appeared in the dark, despite the ban.

The Beijing government lifted its strict anti-coronavirus policy in December, but a wave of infections swept across the country, killing thousands.

Wuhan, a city on the banks of the Yangtze River now synonymous with COVID-19, reported the first cases in late 2019 of what was then an unidentified deadly virus.

The authorities imposed a strict lockdown just two days before the Year of the Rat in late January 2020 to stop the spread of the virus.

Deprived of New Year’s Eve celebrations, its 11 million residents were cut off from the world for 76 days, while Wuhan became the epicenter of an epidemic that has become relentlessly global.

I love Wuhan

On Saturday, a few hours before the arrival of the new year, the city is apparently back to normal and preparing for the festival which is the primary family gathering of the year.

Colorful lanterns and banners decorated the city’s Jianghan business district, and a banner with a heart read “I love Wuhan”.

An elderly man struggled to ride his bike laden with packages and food, while a couple with a young child pressed on a scooter on their way back from the shops.

“Of course, it’s better after opening up,” a woman who gave her last name Zhou told AFP as she bought decorative flowers. “Now, since everyone has already been infected with COVID-19, we can have a good Chinese New Year. It makes us very happy.”

After years of struggling, the business is finally back on the florists track.

“At the beginning of the year with COVID-19, we had no business,” said Ms. Liu, a businesswoman in her 60s. “Now that we’re reopening, we have more business.”

Another vendor, whose last name is Tao, was putting the finishing touches on a floral arrangement.

“During COVID-19, there were very few people buying flowers, but in these few years, many people died of COVID-19, so our sales of chrysanthemums were very high,” she said. “We didn’t sell any of the flowers we had during the COVID-19 shutdown that year. So we got rid of them all.”

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