Lunar New Year â€“ this year to be called the Year of the Pig â€“ started on Sunday, with celebrations in many Asian countries â€“ and in any Chinese community around the world.
The fireworks in China are an ancient New Year tradition meant to drive away bad luck and scare off evil spirits. Streets were littered with tattered red paper and cardboard casings from spent fireworks.
The previous week already saw ‘the world’s biggest human migration’, as hundreds of millions of Chinese entered trains, planes, buses and boats to go home for the festivities.
In Hong Kong, the usually bustling streets were empty as families gathered for New Year feasts and visited temples.
At Hong Kong Disneyland, Mickey and Minnie Mouse changed their usual western clothes for traditional Chinese outfits.
In Taiwan, worshippers gathered at temples, holding incense sticks and bowing in the direction of Buddhist and Taoist deities for good luck.
In South Korea, highways were congested as millions of people began the journey back to the cities after visiting their hometowns for the New Year.
In New York’s Chinatown in downtown Manhattan, thousands of people went wild in celebration, firing off a barrage of confetti, dancing in traditional lion costumes and devouring countless dumplings.
Even Pope Benedict XVI sent his wishes to everyone celebrating the Lunar New Year during his weekly appearance from his window overlooking St Peter’s Square in Rome.
The pig is one of 12 animals (or mythical animals in the case of the dragon) on the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac, which follows the lunar calendar. According to Chinese astrology, people born in pig years are polite, honest, hardworking and loyal.
They are also lucky, which is why hospitals are expecting a baby boom in the Year of the Pig.