Millions Welcome Chinese Year of Snake

February 10, 2013, Sunday // 09:28
Bulgaria: Millions Welcome Chinese Year of Snake
The Lunar New Year is at hand - it begins on Sunday - and for Chinese it's out with the dragon and in with the Year of the Snake. Photo by Getty Images

Millions of people are celebrating Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year, the most important annual holiday in much of Asia.

The new year began in China at midnight, with firework displays and family gatherings.

It marked the opening of the year of the snake, taking over from the dragon.

In China, an estimated 200 million people have traveled to be with their families in what is considered the biggest mass human migration on Earth.

The BBC's John Sudworth, in Shanghai, says the big cities have been emptied of migrant workers, who are now at home in the far-flung provinces, reunited with family, often including their own young children, for the first time since last Lunar New Year.

The holiday will continue throughout the week, with government offices and businesses shut down.

The snake has a mixed reputation in China. It is associated with wisdom, beauty and intelligence but also pride and anger.

In Taiwan, President Ma Ying-jeou handed out traditional red envelopes containing money - in this case one Taiwanese dollar - to people at a temple in Taipei.

Fireworks were also let off in Sydney.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard wished the 900,000 Australians of Chinese descent a "healthy and prosperous Year of the Snake" on Twitter.

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