Chinese New Year bursts into life

Chinese New Year, the Spring Festival, call it what you will, for most Chinese, wherever they are in the world, it is the grandest and liveliest traditional holiday of all.

Although Chinese New Year occurs on 3 February in 2011, in China the Spring Festival lasts from 19 January through to 27 February, and it is a time when most people try to get together to celebrate with their families.

In a country of about 1.3 billion people, this means that about 2.85 billion passenger journeys will be made in China alone, and of those about 230 million people will travel by train.

Fortunately, China has one of the world’s best rail systems, and it has the most number of kilometres of high speed rail in the world.

Even so, every train will be full, every coach will be full, every plane will be full – The Spring Festival is marvellous for Chinese citizens, but it really is a good time for visitors to stay out of the country.

The reasons why it is so important for people to return home during the Spring Festival and Chinese New Year is that traditionally, Chinese New Year Eve is celebrated as time of thanksgiving. Bidding farewell to the old year and thanking the ancestors and the gods of the household for their blessing and protection. The celebration includes a religious ceremony given in honour of Heaven and Earth, the gods of the household, and the family ancestors. The New Year’s Eve feast honours the great spirits of the ancestors and renews the faith of the present generations for the coming New Year.

Each New Year is assigned to an animal of the Chinese Zodiac and the 2011 New Year will become the Year of the Rabbit.  The rabbit is a cautious and reserved creature, and so people who are born in the Year of the Rabbit are said to exhibit those same traits.

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