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Festive text messages become new tradition

 Festive text messages become new tradition

In an example of new technology blending with old traditions, sending seasonal text message greetings has become essential for many Chinese people.

Xie Yi, 25, sent more than 50 Happy New Year messages to his relatives and friends on the evening of December 31.

Now, he has turned his attention to finding suitable words for his Spring Festival salutations, even though it isn't until January 29.

"I have to find some really creative messages for Spring Festival, and then I will become a big star and my messages will be passed around my friends," he said.

Mobile phone users in Shanghai sent over 180 million mobile messages between December 31 and January 1.

In Beijing, people sent more than 150 million texts in the two days, generating about 15 million yuan (US$1.86 million).

Zhao Yi, a spokesman for the world's largest mobile operator China Mobile, said the growth of the number of mobile messages is usually much higher during Spring Festival than during New Year's Day or Christmas.

He added that the contribution of the seasonal messages to his company is not very significant, but for other telecoms operators it is.

During last year's Spring Festival, Chinese people sent 11 billion messages during the seven-day vacation.

In the first 11 months of this year, as many as 274 billion messages were sent, 40 per cent higher than the same period in 2004.

Yu Zhangkun, an analyst with Beijing-based consulting firm Byna, said sending messages has become a custom for Chinese during festivals.

"After three to four years of development, sending greeting messages has melted into the blood of the people," he said.