Chinese communities worldwide welcome Year of the Pig with prayers, feasts and shopping
HONG KONG – Chinese communities around the world welcomed the Year of the Pig on Tuesday, ushering in the Lunar New Year with prayers, family feasts and shopping sprees.
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 in the world’s largest annual migration, emptying the country’s megacities of much of the migrant workforce.
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, Yokohama 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 symbolize good fortune and wealth in Chinese culture and this year’s holiday brings a proliferation of porcine merchandise, greetings and decorations.
Streets and busy thoroughfares were uncharacteristically empty Monday in Beijing, 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.
An estimated 7 million Chinese tourists will head overseas through the Spring Festival this year, according to official news agency Xinhua, citing numbers from Chinese travel agency Ctrip.
Researchers have also traced the origins of the zodiac animal.
Chinese archeologists found that China was one of the earliest places in the world to domesticate pigs about 9,000 years ago — around the time when ancient Turkey began similar domestication practices — based on research on pig bones excavated at Jiahu in Henan province, Xinhua also reported.
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, some dressed in pig costumes, crammed into the city’s famous Wong Tai Sin temple overnight, a popular location to mark the first prayers of the New Year.
In Shanghai, on the mainland, crowds packed into the Longhua temple to pray for good fortune.
In Malaysia — where 60 percent of the population is Muslim, and a quarter ethnic Chinese — some shopping centers chose not to display pig decorations, while some shops kept them inside.
But shoppers and traders said that was usual in a country where the Muslim majority are sensitive about an animal considered unclean in Islam, and overall there had been little controversy this year.
Next door in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country which also has a sizeable ethnic Chinese population, the Lunar New Year is a public holiday.
Events such as 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 turned red Monday in celebration of the New Year — a first for the city.
It is also the most important holiday in Vietnam, where it is celebrated as Tet.
Parades and lion dances in Western cities such as New York and London were expected to draw large crowds.
“In Taiwan we are able to maintain our cultural traditions,” she said, in a video in which she delivered the traditional New Year greeting in five Chinese languages: Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka, Teochew and Cantonese.
Mainland authorities have long been accused by critics and minorities of pushing Mandarin at the expense of other languages.