BEIJING - Agence France-Presse
Thousands of people visit a lantern festival to celebrate the Chinese New Year of the Dragon in Shanghai. AFP photo
A billion-plus Asians welcomed the Year of the Dragon yesterday with a cacophony of fireworks, hoping the mightiest sign in the Chinese zodiac will usher in the wealth and power it represents.
From Malaysia to South Korea, millions of people travelled huge distances to reunite with their families for Lunar New Year, the most important holiday of the year for many in Asia, indulging in feasts or watching dragon dances.
As the clock struck midnight, Beijing’s skyline lit up with colour as families across the Chinese capital set off boxes and boxes of fireworks to ward off evil spirits in the new year , a scene repeated across the country.
The dragon is the most favorable and revered sign in the 12-year Chinese zodiac, a symbol of royalty, fortune and power that is also used in other cultures that see in the Lunar New Year, such as in Vietnam.
As such, hospitals across China
and in Chinese communities are bracing for a baby boom as couples try to have a child this year.
Nannies in Beijing and neighbouring Tianjin are charging more in 2012, and the beds in the capital’s Maternity Hospital are all booked up until August, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Hong Kong feng shui master Anthony Cheng warned a “scandalous corruption case” would rock China
in the second half of 2012. But people across Asia disregarded the doomsday predictions over the holiday, preferring to feast and celebrate with their families, and pray at temples.
Highways in Malaysia, where 25 percent of the population is ethnic Chinese, were clogged at the weekend while the capital Kuala Lumpur became almost deserted as people travelled home.
In South Korea, which also celebrates the Lunar New Year, more than half of the entire population took to roads, railways and planes for the holiday.