02/07/2005, 00.00
CHINA
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Celebrations for the Year of the Rooster begin

The lunar New Year is the most important Chinese celebration at home and among overseas communities.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – The lunar New Year, known as the Spring festival since 1911, is the most important event in the Far-East. In the major cities, there are three days of statutory holiday; more in the countryside depending on local circumstances.

In Shanghai, people will celebrate in all sorts of ways: music, shows, flower markets, waterfront fireworks and parades with people dancing in traditional costumes.

In more austere Beijing, celebrations will start right on New Year Day, February 9.

By contrast, in merry Hong Kong, many businesses close down today till February 10. Artists from around the world will converge on the city, many taking part in its famous New Year Parade.

Traditionally, New Year's Eve is spent with family in one's place of origin. This year, the authorities expect some two billion trips to occur within and without China.

Yesterday, there were 960 flights in and out of Beijing International Airport. And the capital's railway stations have been open round-the-clock.

Increased movement has raised concerns about the risks of contagion from meningitis and avian flu. Several people have in fact come down with the two diseases in the past few days, but, unlike several affected provinces, the central government has yet to take measures to prevent eventual outbreaks.

Overseas Chinese also celebrate the lunar New Year. In Manchester (UK), with its large Chinese community, the event has become a local tradition.

In New York, the hustle and bustle, exotic markets and food of Chinatown will draw people from all over the Big Apple and beyond. Tomorrow evening, fireworks will light up the city's night sky and, on February 9, people will dig in New Year food. The US metropolis has also inherited from Beijing the largest dragon display: 60 m (200 ft).

The springtime festivity is also a time according to Eastern tradition to start new businesses, strike new deals and pay off old debts. And tradition demands that people visit Taoist temples to seek good luck.

Residents and store owners decorate their entrance doors with good luck banners wishing 'success',  'great riches' or 'every year'. Other wish for 'wealth', 'long life', 'many children', 'career advancement' with banners reading 'May all your wishes come through' or '10,000 generations'.

Christians traditionally hang banners inspired by the Gospel and ask for God's blessing.

The photo shows a special token used in a Macau casino to celebrate the New Year.

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