PHOTO ESSAY/Temple visits, family meals, firecrackers usher in Year of the Dragon
Taipei, Feb. 10 (CNA) Lunar New Year celebrations began in Taiwan Friday, when people gathered with their families for Lunar New Year's Eve dinner or visited temples to pray for blessings in the new Year of the Dragon.
For an 18th year, Buddhist group Dharma Drum Mountain tolled the Lotus Bell 108 times to pray for peace at its World Center for Buddhist Education in New Taipei from late Friday to the first few minutes of Lunar New Year's Day on Saturday.
The ceremony was attended by Vice Premier Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦) and former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who joined Dharma Drum Mountain leader Guo Huei (果暉) to ring the bell the last three times to conclude the annual ritual.
People also visit temples for another reason -- to be the first one to put an incense stick in the incense burner -- for good luck in the new year.
Lunar New Year's Eve is mainly a time for family gatherings, usually with a feast in the evening, but many people now choose to enjoy the meal at restaurants instead of having it at home.
Setting off firecrackers is another Lunar New Year's Eve tradition, stemming in part from ancient tales of using firecrackers to ward off a monster that visits around this time of the year.
On Saturday, temples around Taiwan still saw worshippers flood in to seek the blessings of the gods on the first day of the new lunar year. Government officials and politicians also appeared and handed out red envelopes to members of the public.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) visited a temple in Taipei, one in New Taipei and another in Taoyuan to greet people with red envelopes previously unveiled by the Presidential Office late last year.
In Taipei, Tsai said the unity of people in Taiwan and blessings from the gods have helped overcome challenges facing the country.
Tsai is scheduled to visit temples in Taipei and Chiayi on Sunday, when people traditionally travel to visit their parents-in-law.
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