China on Tuesday welcomed the Lunar New Year in which the "carefree and generous" pig, the 12th symbol of the Chinese horoscope, replaces the "cheerful but non-conformist" dog. For a week, hundreds of millions of people will visit their families to welcome the Earth Pig year 4717, associated with fertility and prosperity, reports Efe news.
Several cities welcomed the new year with fireworks to repel bad spirits. However in metropolitans including Beijing, fireworks have been banned due to pollution and security threats. The Chinese begin the year with ancestral traditions - a combination of superstitions and customs - with the aim to ward off misfortunes and bring good luck, prosperity and abundance.
Many rituals including spring-cleaning homes, decorating streets and hosting large family banquets on New Year's Eve are common practice. Another part of the festivities is "hongbao" or red envelopes containing money, which are given to family and friends.
In the last few years, with a boom in payments made by mobile phone, "hongbaos" are now also sent through applications such as WeChat (similar to WhatsApp). The family reunions in China mean that millions of people return to their cities of origin. Authorities expect there will be almost three billion trips made during the so-called "Spring Festival", the 40-day period that started on January 21 and ends on March 1.
(With inputs from agencies.)