GALLERY: Thousands visit Nan Tien Temple

Decorated with lanterns instead of baubles, vines instead of tinsel and proverbs instead of psalms, the Nan Tien Temple in Berkeley was buzzing on Wednesday as it kicked off its annual cultural festival.

More than 40,000 local residents and tourists are expected to attend the festival, which runs until New Year's Day from 9am to 5pm.

Reverend Miao You said it gave people something to do during the public holiday, especially for Buddhists.

When the festival first began about 20 years ago, she was surprised by the thousands flocking to the temple.

"We were not able to cater for them," she said.

"We had to knock on the grocery store and say, 'hey, give us your food'.

"So the following year, we set up stalls with different [kinds of] international vegetarian cuisine."

Despite the rain, festivities began with a strong crowd enjoying food stalls, craft activities, dancing, singing and a tea pot exhibition.

Craft-maker Xiu Zhen Dai filled her colourful display with beaded statues of dogs, apples and vases.

The apple was a symbol of peace and safety, stall attendant Nadejda Shelestov said.

"Because apple in Chinese means safe, so we make them so people can put them in the car," she said.

Christie Wang, age 11, said she was enjoying stringing beads to make a little dog statue. At the temple, Anggeria from Indonesia, age 23, prayed for her secret wish.

"Ah that's a big secret, I can't say," she said.

"I feel calm, I'm really happy to go to temple."

Anggeria said she came from West Borneo in Indonesia to celebrate the Christmas break with her mum, and ended up at the temple with friends and family.

Scott Macfarlane from Auckland was also visiting family in the area.

"I'm at the temple out of curiosity," he said.

"And it's a good thing to do because nothing else is open today."

His son, Matthew Macfarlane from Coledale, said he occasionally visited the temple with his wife because it was a peaceful place.

He said he was showing his family around.

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