People in China and across South-East Asia are getting ready to welcome the Lunar New Year with celebrations ranging from street festivals to intimate family dinners.
Residents of major Chinese cities including Beijing and Shanghai were preparing for quieter holidays than in past years, after authorities banned fireworks due to pollution and safety concerns.
According to Chinese tradition, fireworks and firecrackers help scare off the past year’s monster, “guonian,” and usher in a lucky new year. The decision to ban them didn’t sit right with some Chinese.
“Lots of Beijingers, especially old people, are against it,” said Ma, a 37-year-old entrepreneur, who only wanted to give his last name. “My father-in-law is even considering trying to set off fireworks in secret to see if it’s really that strict.”
Nevertheless, by Thursday afternoon, downtown Beijing was completely quiet, unlike in previous years, when fireworks sounded day and night during the week-long holiday.
According to the Chinese zodiac, 2018 will be the Year of the Earth Dog, following the Year of the Fire Rooster in 2017. The Earth Dog signifies conservatism, and fortune-tellers warn of bearish markets, natural disasters and international conflicts.?
The Lunar New Year is the most important holiday in China, and hundreds of millions of people travel to celebrate it with their families, making this the world’s largest annual human migration.
On Chinese New Year’s Eve, families hold traditional dinners and watch a marathon televised gala. Children and youth receive red envelopes (“hongbao”) filled with money for good luck.
Families decorate their doors with red paper cut-outs of the word for luck, “fu,” as well as images of fish, bats and the animal assigned to the new year – in this case, the dog.
More Chinese are also travelling abroad during the holidays, with about 6.5 million people having booked trips to foreign countries.
In Hong Kong, the Lunar New Year fireworks have been cancelled in light of a bus crash that killed 19 people on Saturday.
In Thailand the dragon dance in Bangkok’s China Town was set to mesmerise visitors, as usual. Chinese New Year is celebrated widely in Thailand, which has up to 10 million Chinese ethnic citizens out of its total population of 69 million.
In Singapore, a street festival featuring handcrafted lanterns, traditional Chinese opera performances and a food market peddling exotic delicacies was set to take place atop a floating platform on the Singapore river.
Celebrations are set to culminate in a fireworks display against a backdrop of the glittering city skyline.
In Malaysia, families were gathering for dinners of the colourful yeesang – a Cantonese salad with raw fish and shredded vegetables.
Later on Thursday, Malaysians are set to celebrate with firework displays and their famous lion dance.
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