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Chinese New Year celebrations mark Year of Dragon

Published time: January 22, 2012 16:02
Edited time: January 22, 2012 22:50

A reveller writes the "Dragon" in traditional Chinese characters and 2012 with fireworks in Beijing on January 22, 2012 (AFP Photo / Liu Lin)

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Chinese New Year celebrations began throughout the world on Sunday. Colorful parades and spectacular fireworks will usher in the Year of Dragon, which symbolizes courage and prosperity.

­New Year is the most important holiday in China. Millions of people take part in festivities lasting 15 days, with extravagant parades and other cultural performances.

Another famous tradition of the holiday, also known as Spring Festival, is the little red envelopes given to children on the first day of the New Year containing money from their parents, grandparents and other relatives.

Outside China, the holiday is widely celebrated in South-East Asia with the largest celebration taking place in Singapore.

In Western cities with significant Chinese populations the holiday is celebrated too. New York, San Francisco, Vancouver, Toronto and Los Angeles see large Chinese New Year parades with fireworks. In Sydney, more than 600,000 people attend the celebrations in Chinatown.

The holiday does not fall on the same day every year. The Chinese follow a lunisolar calendar, so the New Year always changes, its date falling either at the end of January or the beginning of February.

According to the Chinese Zodiac, the upcoming year is the Year of Dragon which comes after the Year of Rabbit and is followed by the Year of Snake. Among the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac, the Dragon is the only imaginary animal.

The leader of dragon dance performers lifts up a dragon head during the opening ceremony of a Spring Festival Temple Fair to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year at Longtan Park in Beijing, January 22, 2012 (Reuters / Soo Hoo Zheyang)
The leader of dragon dance performers lifts up a dragon head during the opening ceremony of a Spring Festival Temple Fair to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year at Longtan Park in Beijing, January 22, 2012 (Reuters / Soo Hoo Zheyang)
Performers wearing traditional costumes take part in a lion dance during the opening of the temple fair at Ditan Park, also known as the Temple of Earth, in Beijing January 22, 2012 (Reuters / David Gray)
Performers wearing traditional costumes take part in a lion dance during the opening of the temple fair at Ditan Park, also known as the Temple of Earth, in Beijing January 22, 2012 (Reuters / David Gray)
Chinese women wear dragon hats as they tour the Ditan Temple Fair, which is one of the highliights of the Lunar New Year in Beijing on January 22, 2012 (AFP Photo / Mark Ralston)
Chinese women wear dragon hats as they tour the Ditan Temple Fair, which is one of the highliights of the Lunar New Year in Beijing on January 22, 2012 (AFP Photo / Mark Ralston)
A fire breather performs in Chinatown in Manila a day before the Chinese New Year on January 22, 2012 (AFP Photo / Noel Celis)
A fire breather performs in Chinatown in Manila a day before the Chinese New Year on January 22, 2012 (AFP Photo / Noel Celis)

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