China ushered in the Lunar New Year or the highly auspicious Year of the Dragon on Sunday midnight amid a dazzling display of fireworks with millions of citizens taking to the streets in spite of below-freezing temperatures.
The city was covered with traditional red-coloured paper lanterns hung from possibly most homes and shops. The fireworks are expected to continue through this week.
For the Chinese, this year is especially auspicious not only because it is the Year of the Dragon – the most powerful animal symbol in the Chinese zodiac – but also as it is specifically the water dragon which is the symbol for the year. This Lunar alignment comes back only in a 60-year cycle.
The new year celebrations, which will continue well-into February, was preceded by arguably the world’s largest temporary migration of people as millions and millions of migrant Chinese workers rushed home to be with their families.
Transportation authorities forecast a record number of 3.2 billion journeys by road, rail, air and ship in a 40-day peak period that includes the Spring Festival holiday week
More than4,100 trains will operate daily over the holiday, 260 more than last year, state media quoted Vice Minister of Railways Hu Yadong as saying.
Hu said he expected a daily average of 5.88 million people to use train services, while airlines planned to add some 14,000 flights during the 40-day travel peak.
Passengers are expected to make 34.88 million more trips by air during the Spring Festival travel rush this year, up 7 percent from last year, Xia Xinghua, deputy director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), recently told a press conference.
Xia said airlines are currently running nearly 8,000 flights each day at a capacity that is able to carry 1 million passengers on a daily basis.
Authorities calculate that majority of the country’s 1.34 billion population would be travelling at least twice during the period.
Earlier this month, the event was also marked by the release of a set of stamps with the image of the dragon. But the publication of the stamp also sparked a debate as some thought that design of the mythical animal was too ferocious.
“Few mythological beasts could better arouse a national debate in China than the dragon, because Chinese believe they are descendants of the legendary creature,” an article on the national broadcaster, CCTV’s website said.