BEIJING -- Chinese moms and grandmas were faced with a day of sweat and toil on Wednesday when the country waved goodbye to winter and ushered in spring with traditional meals and other celebrations.
"Lichun", literally the "beginning of the spring," the first day of the first of the 24 divisions of the solar year according to the traditional Chinese calendar.
A waitress serves spring pancakes at a restaurant in the capital city of Beijing Wednesday February 4, 2009, a day when the Spring begins. The day is also called "Lichun", the first of the 24 solar terms in China's lunar calendar. People in north China have the tradition to eat spring pancakes on the day. [Xinhua]
"I got up much earlier this morning and rushed to the market, only to find long queues," said Wang Yanlin, a 56-year-old housewife in northeastern Liaoning Province.
"Ingredients for 'chunbing' have all doubled in price and still sell like hot cakes," she said, referring to the pancake largely consumed on the day, which is made of flour, eggs, bean sprouts and leek.
"I have to buy them because it's the tradition I have to observe," Wang added.
Long queues could also be seen in cities like Beijing and Shanghai, where people were purchasing food for the occasion.
The tradition of eating special snacks and dinners on the day is called "yaochun," which literally means "biting the spring." Other favorite dishes on the day include "zhouzi," braised pork joints and "chunjuan," fried rolls stuffed with leek and eggs.
Lichun is celebrated in different ways throughout the country.
In the northern Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, many people mark the day by tying red cloth to their doors to invite in the spring and good luck.
In the Dongsishitiao hutong, a zigzagging lane of Beijing, local residents embraced the spring with smiles and cheerful shouts of "here comes the spring!"
"We are trying to revitalize the traditional way of heralding the spring in the city," said a senior citizen who lead the crowd, gongs in hand.
For most of the young people, however, the day only means a change to their menu.
"I know little about the day because it's not a festival like Christmas or the Spring Festival," said Liu Zhiqiang, a white-collar worker in his 20s in the eastern Jiangsu Province, who had only realized it was Lichun when his mother asked him to have a taste of the chunjuan on the table.