BEIJING – Chinese streets and homes wore a festive look on Monday, adorned with red paper lanterns, good luck messages and images of the pig, a day before the Lunar New Year, or the Year of the Pig.
Posters with new year greetings were put up across cities with the character “fu” which means “good luck.”
Fu cutouts, circled by a red square, could also be seen hanging upside-down to indicate the arrival of wealth and prosperity.
Many of the posters and greetings also carried imageries of the pig – one of the 12 Chinese zodiac signs – which is associated with fertility and prosperity.
The animal will be the central figure in upcoming festivities, including a month-long lantern festival in the popular Yuyuan garden in Shanghai.
Carole Zhang, a Beijing resident who follows Feng Shui – an ancient Chinese system which establishes rules about architecture and the arrangement of objects for ensuring good fortune – told EFE that the character is a fundamental part of Chinese calligraphy and carries with it associations of happiness, success and wealth.
During the Lunar New Year celebrations, a majority of shops and restaurants will remain closed in the country and the streets of metros such as Shanghai and Beijing will be deserted as compared to the rest of the year.
Chinese people also buy and wear new clothes on New Year’s day, and get together with family for feasting and to watch the grand gala ceremony on state broadcaster CCTV and play Mahjong, a traditional card game.
On New Year’s Day “hongbao,” or red envelopes filled with money, are also gifted to family and friends to wish them luck during the New Year.
In recent years, with a massive jump in mobile payments in the country, it has become popular to send hongbaos through apps such as WeChat, the local equivalent of WhatsApp.
Zhang told EFE that it was also a tradition to gift oranges and mandarins – symbolizing prosperity – to family members and friends, and not doing so could be interpreted as a lack of respect.
The festive period is also a time of purification, and a number of people use the occasion to thoroughly clean their houses and their appearances.
During this time, millions of people also return to their hometowns to celebrate the festival, in what has been described as the world’s largest annual human migration.
Chinese authorities expect nearly 3 billion journeys during this period, also known as the Spring Festival, a 40-day period, which began on Jan. 21 and will end on March 1.