Feasts, fireworks open Year of Snake

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SNAKE CHARMS Wearing traditional Chinese dresses during Sunday’s celebration of the Chinese New Year, 6-year-old Tiffany Siahingco (center) and her twin sisters Trisha and Trixie, 4, admire figurines of water snakes being sold as lucky charms at a stall in Manila’s Chinatown in Binondo district. RICHARD REYES

BEIJING—A billion-plus Asians ushered in the Year of the Snake on Sunday with a cacophony of fireworks, after a Chinese televised gala featuring megastars, including Celine Dion, kicked off a week of festivities.

From Australia to South Korea, millions of people traveled 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 and celebrations.

As the clock struck midnight, Beijing’s skyline lit up with color as residents braved freezing temperatures to set off fireworks, traditionally believed to ward off evil spirits—a scene repeated across China.

But the capital’s streets were eerily quiet on Sunday, with

9 million out of 20 million residents returning to their ancestral homes for the festival, according to the state-run China Daily.

On Saturday night, Beijing saw just 25 injuries and 83 fire emergencies related to fireworks, down almost 29 percent and 45 percent, respectively, from last year.

This year also saw a sharp reduction in the sale of fireworks as heavy smog in recent weeks has fueled fears that Beijing’s notorious air pollution levels could touch dangerous highs during the festival.

Variety show

More than 260,000 boxes of fireworks were sold in the city in the days leading up to the New Year, a 37-percent drop compared to last year’s sales, after the smog left citizens “worried,” the Beijing News reported.

State broadcaster CCTV aired its annual gala variety show during the countdown to the New Year—which rakes in hundreds of millions of viewers—featuring a gamut of iconic stars, including Dion who sang in Mandarin.

Dion performed the classic Chinese folk song “Jasmine Flower” in a duet with local idol Song Zuying, before launching into her global hit “My Heart Will Go On” from the Hollywood blockbuster “Titanic.”

Wisdom, longevity

Celebrations were also reported aboard Chinese patrol ships in waters surrounding East China Sea islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, which are at the center of a bitter territorial row with Japan.

According to reports, the dispute had led to a ban on sales of fireworks labeled “Tokyo Explosion,” though a stall in southern Beijing visited by Agence France-Presse was still offering them on Saturday.

In China, the snake has traditionally been seen as a symbol of wisdom, wealth and longevity, but it is considered less auspicious than other animals in the 12-year Chinese Zodiac, such as the dragon.

More babies

In Taiwan, temples were thronged with the faithful seeking blessings, with President Ma Ying-jeou seen handing out traditional “red envelopes” with money (a token Tw$1—equivalent to 3 US cents) to well-wishers in Taipei.

People also rushed to lotto booths to buy special Lunar New Year lottery tickets with a jackpot of Tw$200 million ($6.7 million).

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong used the occasion to exhort his compatriots to extend a baby boom in the just-passed Year of the Dragon, which saw a 7.4-percent rise in the birth rate amid rising complaints over the number of foreign workers.

“We gladly welcomed more babies during the Dragon Year and hope that this continues into the Year of the Snake,” he said.

Illuminated floats

In Hong Kong, thousands of people were expected to watch the annual night parade Sunday, at which illuminated floats would be showcased in a giant outdoor party with the city’s iconic Victoria Harbour as the backdrop.

In North Korea’s capital Pyongyang, streams of residents offered flowers and bowed deeply before giant statues of national founder Kim Il-sung and his son and late leader Kim Jong-il.

In Sydney, fireworks overnight welcomed the Lunar New Year. Prime Minister Julia Gillard wished the country’s 900,000 people of Chinese ancestry a “healthy and prosperous Year of the Snake” on Twitter.

The New Year typically marks the largest annual movement of people as millions of people across China and other Asian countries squeeze into packed trains and buses to journey home to spend the season with their families.

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of INQUIRER.net. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • UrHONOR

    SWERTI ang mga tongreasemen at seneytongs ngayong taon na ito….taon nila.  YEAR of SNAKE.  Mabuhay ang mga AHAS.  Nagpapahinga ngayon sa isang pagamutan ang isang maliit pero naaaaaapaka-makamandag na ahas.

    • magiting78

      Snake ba sila hnd ba Crocs….kaya nga nag pakamatay c Lolong kasi lagi sila n aassociate sa mga politiko….lols

      • UrHONOR

        PARE-PAREHO na sila kabayan…..buaya’t ahas.  Sa katunayan, pati buitre ka-ututang-dila nila.  Lahat sila ay masisiba, ganid, matakaw, at walang sinasanto kundi yong makakain nila!

  • barry p

    The PAGAN celebration of Chinese New Year is a major event in the complex schemes of elaborate superstitions….based on beliefs that are directly contradictory to Biblical teachings.

    IF you proclaim yourselves as Christian yet participate in such PAGAN practices that the Bible so sternly warn us about….you are living in a world of cosmic deception.

    Woe to you.

    • kilawon(the return)

       what a kill joy ! tsk

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GURBWYA3AIXC22EF6E6HIHRNQE Ornbort Vortingeresdemesus

        some people think too hard. just be wise as a SERPENT and gentle as a dove. Who said that again?

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GURBWYA3AIXC22EF6E6HIHRNQE Ornbort Vortingeresdemesus

        Every country has bad people and people who are masungit. It’s just the people who are in power that reflect the actions of a country. Ordinary citizens really are either very nice or just want to be left alone. Think about that before you generalize the actions of a nation on its people. 

    • Mux

      Do you celebrate the pagan event of Saturnalia which occurs around… December 25? If you do celebrate it by the disguised name of “Christmas”, then you are just as guilty as the Chinese in celebrating what you call a pagan festival.

      • barry p

        Masyadong pilit na pilit yung attempt mo to deflect the PAGAN truth about Chinese New Year.

        First of all the Saturnalia Festival you are saying is an entirely different event and origin than the Christmas.

        Saturnalia did not come to existence because of Christmas. 
        And Christmas did not come to exist because of Saturnalia.

        The only connection was the incidental timing of observance which was very close, like only days or weeks apart.

        Second and most important of all, Christmas observance is purely symbolic… IT’S A REMEMBRANCE. 

        The day itself was never associated with luck or any fortune-telling stuff.

        Very much unlike the PAGAN Chinese culture of elaborate superstitions that calls on powers clearly different from the God of the Bible.

      • Mux

        I know that Saturnalia is different from Christmas and the early Christian fathers ( and mothers ) also tried to deflect the pagan festival of Saturnalia by “Christianizing” it. Let’s put it this way, if Paul went to China instead of Europe, it could very well be possible that we would be celebrating Christmas around this time of the year coinciding with Chinese New Year.

    • $39764945

      Exactly right ! In the Bible the Tempter in the Garden of Eden was the  DEVIL  in the formed of a  SNAKE. Study your  BIBLE folks.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ETNUG6HPDQOSLORHMP6IHT4XDU ricky

    ALL STUPID CHINESE SUPERSTITIONS GARBAGE CRAP!

    People around the world should STOP patronizing this chinese garbage-crap and stick to their religious beliefs instead. Putting your lives unders the spell of animal superstitious beliefs are too much for sane indviduals to be rely on. Dragon, snake, monkey, etc. are nothing but crap mentality and have no basis to make our lives better. We should work harder and believe on our own capacity to improve and not to rely on silly animal superstitions to succeed in life.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GURBWYA3AIXC22EF6E6HIHRNQE Ornbort Vortingeresdemesus

      stick to their religious beliefs instead. –> but what if THAT is your religious belief? people in china are part of people around the world… you just hacked reality…

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/FQQPZLNOMD2EBFTHSWOP6QGZWY Marshall

    BOMB CHINA !!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OJWHBJLMWPTRUOZMN6JOMHLO2A Banana Na

    Kung Hei Fat Choi…sa lahat…

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GURBWYA3AIXC22EF6E6HIHRNQE Ornbort Vortingeresdemesus

      Kung Hei Bok Choi! Kainan Na!!!

  • magiting78

    Kung Hei Paktay China….lolz

  • yonoh

    year of snake daw para sa mga intsik………….sa mga pinoy ang mga intsik ay ahas kasi nangangamkam ng di sa kanila…………

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GURBWYA3AIXC22EF6E6HIHRNQE Ornbort Vortingeresdemesus

    Matutuwa si Cobra Commander! 

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