by Xinhua writers Hu Tao, Zhang Miaomiao, Zheng Qian
BEIJING, Jan.25 (Xinhua) -- Prolonged drought is casting a gloom across north China as the country prepares to celebrate the Spring Festival, the most important holiday on the country's calendar.
Many Chinese are hoping that the Lunar New Year, which falls next week, will bring snow to break the driest winter in 60 years.
"It's a bit disappointing to see sunshine and clear blue skies in the weather forecast for the next seven days," said Chen Dagang, head of the weather forecast office of the Beijing Meteorological Bureau, Tuesday.
Just as many Westerners hope for a "white Christmas," many Chinese, especially those living in the north, look forward to snow in the Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb. 3 this year.
Beijing has recorded 90 days with no effective precipitation, the longest such period for 30 years.
The Beijing Meteorological Bureau has received many calls asking about the prospects of a snowy Spring Festival.
"I am sorry to tell them the latest forecast is most likely a snowless Spring Festival," said Chen.
Information released by the National Climate Center indicates various levels of drought in north and central China. Some regions have recorded only half the precipitation of the same period last year.
In sharp contrast to the heavy snow and icy rain hitting south China, the drought in the north is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
"The snow in China this year has fallen on the wrong places in the south, and left nothing for the north," said Beijing taxi-driver Shi Defu.
Despite better driving conditions, Shi said he would like a few days of snow in the Spring Festival for some "New Year atmosphere."
"All boys in Beijing or north China have indelible memories of lighting firecrackers in the snow. Red lanterns and white snowflakes, that is a real Spring Festival," said a public servant surnamed Chen.
"I can't wait to take my son to try the simple joy of lighting fireworks on snowy festival days," Chen said.
Beijing Meteorological Bureau official Liu Qiang said conditions were just too dry for snow in the city.
"It's a pity there is not enough water vapour to create artificial snowfall," Liu said.
The drought extends south to the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow and Huaihe rivers, including the provinces of Henan, Shandong, Shanxi, Hebei, Jiangsu and Anhui.
In Tai'an, east China's Shandong Province, it is tradition to climb the snow-covered Taishan mountain on the Spring Festival. Local people collect spring water and pray for good fortune for the new year in the temple.
Taishan is considered sacred because it is to the east, the direction from which the sun rises. Chinese philosopher Confucius supposedly visited the mountain and a temple was built there in his honor.
This year, the water level of the spring is much lower than normal.
"We are accustomed to Taishan covered with snow and rime in the Lunar New Year. It's a bit depressing to see a sandy and dry winter," said Su Mingxia, 49, who lives at the foot of the mountain.
Heavy snow and icy rain are continuing to sweep east and south China, disrupting traffic, closing airports, cutting water and power supplies, and causing havoc for ordinary Chinese.
The China Meteorological Administration has forecast more snow and freezing rain across most of south China from Wednesday to Saturday.