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January 1, 2013

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Lights fantastic and shopping galore ...

FROM the Bund to Longhua Temple, from parties at home to overnight shopping sprees, Shanghai's residents bid farewell in their own various ways to the year of the Mayan doomsday myth and welcomed in the new year.

Tens of thousands of people braved the chill to gather for countdown events at the Bund, Xintiandi, city temples and department stores, exchanging best wishes and hopes for a prosperous year ahead when clocks struck midnight.

On both sides of the Huangpu River, huge crowds enjoyed a laser light show, centerpiece of the city's celebrations.

Historic buildings and the Huangpu River were lit up with splashes of color, and thousands of revelers cheered as midnight arrived and the party reached its climax with a fireworks display.

The laser show, with a "magic city" theme, took viewers on a journey through time with images displaying different periods of the city projected onto buildings.

Zhao Yang, who was on the Bund to celebrate the moment, said he wished everyone the best for the new year.

"I have some regrets in 2012, like failing to buy a car as planned, and I wish my families good health and everything smooth in 2013," Zhao said.

Lu Peiqing, who was also in the crowd, said she was happy to have tied the knot in the past year. "I got married in 2012, and every day is filled with surprise and happiness since then," she said.

On December 12, more than 4,880 couples said "I do" at local marriage registration centers because the date -12/12/12 - means "want to love" in Chinese. It was the busiest day of the year for marriage registration.

Qin Lei said he had a good year in 2012.

"I just hope I can have more time to be with my family members in the new year," Qin said.

The Longhua and Baohua temples were among those holding traditional bell-tolling ceremonies.

People rang bells 108 times to start the new year - a tradition said to absolve sin and bring good luck. They also ate noodles, worked out lantern riddles and signed a signature wall to welcome 2013.

Lavish spending

Meanwhile, shoppers celebrated by spending lavishly last night as department stores offered big discounts and extended opening hours to cash in on the festival, attracting huge queues at some stores despite the freezing weather.

The Nextage Department Store stayed open until 2am while the New World Department Store was open for another hour after that.

Stores in the Xujiahui and Lujiazui areas were open until midnight.

Major shopping centers were packed with consumers and there were long queues at cashiers' desks.

"I've always wanted to buy a coffee maker," said shopper Jay Hu, "but I seldom find discounts for it."

This time he was lucky and he had rushed to the mall as soon as he finished work.

Outside the New World Department Store on Nanjing Road W., shoppers queued from early yesterday morning to get their hands on gold bars being offered at a discount. The first shopper arrived as early as 5am and the line was almost 100 meters long by the time the store opened. It was selling 300 gold bars weighing 10 grams each at 299 yuan a gram. They quickly sold out.

A shopper surnamed Zhu was a happy customer. "It's a good deal," he said.

People who stayed home didn't miss out on the fun as they watched countdown galas. There were at least 10 galas, featuring a raft of stars as well as Olympic champions such as badminton player Lin Dan.

Wishing each other Happy New Year through new mobile and Internet services such as weixin and sending the new year's first weibo have become a new craze among locals, particularly youngsters.

Cherry Wu, who works for a foreign trade company, said she offered her best new year wishes to many of her friends through weixin.

"My friends can hear my voice, which I hope will make them feel warm," Wu said.

But the greeting craze proved almost too popular with many people finding it difficult to get onto the service from around 9pm.

Even those working overtime were in a festive mood.

"I wished myself a better future, very simple," said Zhou Yang, a Shanghainese working in the banking industry. He worked overtime last night but was treating himself to a good meal to make up for it.


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