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It's time to go home

By Zhang Xi (chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2010-02-12 09:25
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We're counting down the days. The Spring Festival arrives; the time for family reunion is coming. We can't forget the anxiety while queuing in the wee hours to buy tickets; can't forget the joy of getting the expected tickets and hearing parents' exciting voices knowing we'll be home on time.

Yes, home, a sacred concept in Chinese tradition. We Chinese are heading home from every corner of the world before our lunar New Year. People enjoy family warmth to the sounds of firecrackers, drums and gongs. We can rest our tired bodies and exhausted minds in the arms of our parents and children.

There isn't an official religion or religious festivals in China. Chinese are tied together with family affection rather than any specific religions or ideology. Our civilization is based on family affection, so that we think of the Spring Festival homecoming as a kind of ritual. Home is our Holy Land. It's natural for us to rush home before the lunar New Year's Eve, the most vital festival in our tradition.

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There'll be roughly 2.5 billion trips during the festival peak, with most by rail. Travellers arrive at stations hours in advance, tolerate being sandwiched among other passengers and luggage, daring not to go to the bathroom, for it might take them an hour of crawling over bags and people. They endure swollen hands and legs after long hours of a hard-seat journey because they know their efforts will finally pay off: they're heading home.

These days, we can see an unusual scene on the road. Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers are riding motorbikes from the Pearl River Delta Region in Guangdong province to their nearby hometowns. Wearing multiple pieces of winter clothes, these travelers, usually couples with children, start their journey at midnight and arrive at their destinations after trips of more than 10 hours. Tight budgets and no direct trains are the two main reasons for them to continue this decade-old tradition. The thought supporting them to fight the coldness and tiredness is getting home earlier. Fortunately, about 20,000 police officers have been assigned to ease the traffic, help motorbikes during bad weather and staff temporary rest stations to offer free porridge. So good luck, motorcycling migrants!

The Spring Festival is also a peak time for overseas Chinese to get back to the motherland as well. My friend used to tell me that when she was abroad, she couldn't return to China to celebrate the festival with her family. So she sat outside her apartment, which was near the airport, to watch departing flights, imagining one of them could bring her back home. She realized for the first time that "East or West, home is the best".

But many people in China, unlike my friend, voluntarily chose not to be home during this festival. These “home dodgers” cancelled the trips since they can't return "gloriously" to their families because of various reasons. However, instead of feeling released, they're tortured by homesickness. Their feet left home, but their hearts never did.

So try to be home during this festival, to hug your family members. They don't care how much you earn and what you bring. Love counts the most. Home is the place where, when you have to go there, it has to take you in.

May the New Year bring many good things and rich blessings to you and all those you love!