People throughout China have begun celebrations marking the start of Lunar New Year also known as the Spring Festival, with millions assembling in the capital Beijing and other cities to welcome the year of Rooster.
Thousands gathered at Beijing’s major temples on Saturday, officially the first of the Year of the Rooster, praying for better health and fortune and setting off fireworks despite government pleas to keep such activities to the minimum amid persisting air pollution.
The auspicious events began Friday evening and will continue for two weeks.
Beijing's expansive temple fair opened at Ditan Park, where empty tree branches were decorated with red lanterns and traditional goods and foods were put on sale.
The New Year events in China begin on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month of the Chinese calendar. The festivities commonly last for about 23 days, ending on the 15th day of the first lunar month in the following year in the Chinese calendar.
Many people clean their homes to welcome the Spring Festival. They put up the red posters with poetic verses on it to their doors, Chinese New Year pictures on their walls, and decorate their homes with red lanterns. It is also a time to reunite with relatives so many people visit their families at this time of the year.
In the evening of the Spring Festival Eve, many people set off fireworks and firecrackers, hoping to cast away any bad luck and bring forth good luck. Children often receive “luck” money. Many people wear new clothes and send Chinese New Year greetings to each other. Various activities such as beating drums and striking gongs, as well as dragon and lion dances, are all part of the Spring Festival festivities.
Other New Year's traditions include the eating of dumplings in northern China and the lighting of fireworks.
Since 1983, the Spring Festival Gala has become an annual fixture for Chinese families on the eve of the Lunar New Year. According to local reports, it remains the longest-running and most-watched show in Chinese television history.
Ethnic Chinese as well as several other East Asian nations, including South Korea and Vietnam, also celebrate Lunar New Year, the date of which changes from year to year. Each Chinese New Year is characterized by one of 12 animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac.
There are 12 zodiac animals. They are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. The next Year of the Rooster will be in 2029.