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Chinese communities around the world welcome Year of the Pig

HONG KONG: Chinese communities began welcoming the Year of the Pig on Tuesday (Feb 5), ushering in the Chinese New Year with prayers, family feasts and shopping sprees after embarking on the world's largest annual migration.

In mainland China over the past week, hundreds of millions of people have crammed into trains, buses, cars and planes to reach family and friends, emptying the country's megacities of much of the migrant workforce.
Shanghai CNY
Flames rise up from a pit where Longhua temple visitors throw incense sticks while praying for good fortune at Longhua temple in Shanghai to mark the start of the Chinese New Year, late on Feb 4, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Matthew Knight)

Celebrations will take place across the globe, from Southeast Asia's centuries-old Chinese communities to the more recently established Chinatowns of Sydney, London, Vancouver, Los Angeles and beyond.

The most important holiday of the Chinese calendar marks the New Year with a fortnight of festivities as reunited families wrap dumplings together and exchange gifts and red envelopes stuffed with money.

Pigs symbolise good fortune and wealth in Chinese culture and this year's holiday brings a proliferation of porcine merchandise, greetings and decorations.
Hong Kong CNY
Children in animal hats pose in front of a pig giant pig installation ahead of the Chinese New Year in Hong Kong on Feb 4, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Philip Fong)

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During the Spring Festival season - a 40-day period known as "Chunyun" - China's masses will be on the move, chalking up some three billion journeys, Chinese state media reported.

Streets and busy thoroughfares were uncharacteristically empty in Beijing on Monday, with many shops and restaurants closed until next week.

A growing number of Chinese are also choosing to travel abroad, booking family trips to Thailand, Japan, and other top destinations.
Thailand CNY
Lion dance with LED lights, perform on the glass deck of the King Power Mahanakhon building, currently Thailand's tallest at 314 metre tall in Bangkok on Feb 4, 2019. (Photo: AP/Sakchai Lalit)

An estimated seven million Chinese tourists will head overseas over Spring Festival this year, according to official news agency Xinhua, citing numbers from Chinese travel agency Ctrip.

PRAYERS AND GREETINGS

In Hong Kong, flower markets were filled with residents picking out orchids, mandarins and peach blossoms to decorate their homes - with stalls also boasting a dizzying array of pig-themed pillows, tote bags and stuffed toys.

Thousands of incense-carrying petitioners crammed into the city's famous Wong Tai Sin temple overnight, a popular location to mark the first prayers of the New Year.
Hong Kong Chinese New Year
Thousands of incense-carrying petitioners crammed into Hong Kong's famous Wong Tai Sin temple overnight, a popular location to mark the first prayers of the New Year. (Photo: AFP/Philip FONG)

In Malaysia, some shopping centres chose not to display pig decorations, while some shops kept them inside.

But shoppers and traders said that was usual in the Muslim-majority country.

Next door in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority country which also has a sizeable ethnic Chinese population, the Chinese New Year is a public holiday.
Kuala Lumpur CNY
Malaysia ethnic Chinese take a selfie by a temple in Kuala Lumpur on the eve of Chinese New Year on Feb 4, 2019 (Photo: AP/Yam G-Jun)

Indonesia CNY
Indonesian ethnic Chinese people pray during Chinese New Year eve at a temple in Jakarta on Feb 4, 2019. (Photo: AP/Achmad Ibrahim)

Events like traditional lion dances are held in decorated public spaces while supermarkets stock up on mooncakes and tangerines.

In Japan, the capital's famous Tokyo Tower was due to turn red in celebration of the New Year - a first for the city.

Parades and lion dances in Western cities such as Los Angeles and London were expected to draw large crowds.
Los Angeles CNY
People shop for Lunar New Year trinkets in Chinatown in Los Angeles, California on Feb 1, 2019 ahead of the New Year of the Pig.

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