SHAOSHAN, Hunan, Dec. 26 (Xinhua) -- A plain open banquet of longevity noodles and small spicy fish warmed admirers in Mao's home village on the 120th anniversary of his birth on Thursday.
Visitors lingered over Mao's favorite spicy dishes over the sound of "red songs" and firecrackers, a local birthday tradition in Shaoshan Village in central China's Hunan Province.
"There's food for free and I felt a warmth here with a family embrace in Mao's hometown. Shaoshan touches our generation in its special way," said Fan Huiling, a 49-year-old woman who has been anticipating a trip to Shaoshan for a long time.
On the eve of her retirement, Fan finally set foot in the small village to realize her lifelong dream of a "personal visit to the birthplace of the great man."
Fan didn't have much time to linger on the taste as visitors kept on coming, and she could "wait no longer to see the former residence of Mao."
Early on Thursday, people and cars from nearly all provinces and regions of the country swarmed into the small village.
They waved the red national flag and sang songs about Mao such as the "The East is Red" while visiting Mao's former residence and the land that he used to farm.
Mao was born in the village on Dec. 26, 1893. Sites associated with the founder of the People's Republic of China have been worshiped by people at home and abroad.
After Mao died on Sept. 9, 1976, his countrymen at Shaoshan gathered together to prepare and eat longevity noodles on his birthday to memorialize the great man.
"The small spicy fish is a 'must,' as it was Chairman Mao's favorite 'taste of home,'" said a villager in Shaoshan who was busy serving the swarming visitors.
In 2003, Shanshao Village started to provide free longevity noodles to visitors on the grounds in front of the village committee building.
"Chairman Mao is indeed a great man and his great contributions deserve remembrance by our young generation," said Ren Bin, a 22-year-old college student from Xiangtan City, which is under the jurisdiction of Shanshan.
It was Ren's eighth trip to the village as his parents were also worshipers of Mao and collected many of Mao's poetry anthologies and badges.
"Mao was an all-around talent. He composed poems and commanded military operations. He was a philosopher as well as the founder of a nation," he said.
As a renowned destination for "red tourism," Shaoshan has received about 8 million visitors annually. Several tens of thousands of admirers chose to pay tribute in Mao's birthplace on his birthday, while a range of activities in memory of the influential figure were held around the country.
Thousands of miles away from Shaoshan, people queued up in front of Mao's mausoleum in Tian'anmen Square on the freezing winter day in Beijing.
The mausoleum opened in 1977. On Thursday, a ceremony was held to commemorate the 120th anniversary of his birth.
A military officer surnamed Su has visited Mao's mausoleum every year on Mao's birthday. This time, he stood for a long time in front of a copy of Mao's written call to Taiwan compatriots.
"Mao opposed foreign interference in China's internal affairs in this document," said Su, adding that he always draws new inspiration during each visit.
Steps away at Tian'anmen Square, Yang Lina, born eight years after Mao passed away, paid her first tribute to Chairman Mao in the mausoleum.
"I felt like crying in there," said the girl, who did not even know it was Mao's birthday.