Fireworks illuminated the skies across Asia and millions of families gathered together on Friday to usher in the Year of the Horse, kicking off a week of celebrations that included a performance by ‘Braveheart’ actress Sophie Marceau on China’s annual televised gala.
Residents from China’s small towns and villages to its sprawling megacities rang in the Lunar New Year, the country’s most important holiday, by indulging in feasts of dumplings and rice cakes and exchanging hongbao, red envelopes stuffed with “lucky money”.
Many of them were among the hundreds of millions of people, including 245 million migrant workers, who had crammed planes, trains and buses to return to their hometowns in what is the world’s largest annual human migration.
Chinese communities across Asia also came together to celebrate, marking the holiday with flowers and offerings. Hong Kong was due to hold a massive fireworks display over Victoria Harbour on Saturday, the second day of the New Year.
In Sydney, which regularly hosts one of the biggest new year celebrations outside mainland China, a parade scheduled for Sunday night featuring 2,700 performers and 32 floats was expected to draw more than 100,000 people.
Citizens in North Korea welcomed the New Year with “beautiful dreams, great ambitions, confidence of future and optimism” according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency, adding, “cheerful laughter is heard from every family”.
The lunar calendar is based on the cycles of the moon and through Chinese folklore ascribes 12 animals, one for each year in the rotating cycle. The horse is in the seventh position.
In China, the horse is traditionally associated with loyalty and energy, and is considered the second-most popular animal sign of the zodiac, after the dragon.
The phrase for “at once” in Chinese literally means “on horseback” and some popular New Year cards this year have featured money, houses or cars on horseback, expressing the sender’s wish of speedy good fortune for the receiver.
This year, however, is set to be a dramatic one, according to Hong Kong feng-shui masters, as it is the Year of the Wood Horse – incorporating the element of fire.
Conflicts, disasters, record high temperatures, an economic chill in Asia and more trouble for pop star Justin Bieber all lie in wait this year, celebrity feng-shui master Alion Yeo told reporters earlier this week.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, clad in a black coat and black fur hat, made a Lunar New Year’s Eve appearance at a winter fair in Inner Mongolia.
“I wish good health, happiness for you and your families and may all go well with you,” he said, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
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