WASHINGTON— People in many Asian countries as well as Asian communities elsewhere in the world are marking the start of a new lunar year with family gatherings, fireworks and street parties. According to the ancient Chinese horoscope, the Year of the Horse began Friday.
The lunar new year is the longest and most important holiday in China. It begins with the new moon on the first day and ends on the full moon 15 days later. It is also known as the Spring Festival.
Chinese President Xi Jinping extended Lunar New Year greetings to Chinese people at home and abroad during a visit to China's Inner Mongolia region this week.
"The Spring Festival is a traditional Chinese festival, and also a festival shared by all Chinese people around the globe. I'd like to take this opportunity to extend my New Year greetings to Chinese people of all ethnic groups, and the compatriots in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, as well as the overseas Chinese around the globe. I wish everyone good health, happy family and all the best," said Xi.
During this important celebration in the Asian culture, it is traditional to wear red clothes, to ward off evil spirits. People also make New Year's wishes.
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Other Asian countries also celebrate the lunar new year, although the start days may vary. In Vietnam, the holiday is known as Tet and falls on Sunday this year. Food stores in Vietnam's capital, Hanoi, are crowded with shoppers getting fruit ahead of the holiday.
"I buy fruits to place on the family altar, to pay respects to our ancestors," said Ton Nu Thi Cam, a shopper picking up fruits.
In Japan, crowds in Yokohama's Chinatown welcomed the Year of the Horse on Thursday with a countdown and lion dances.
Celebrations of the lunar new year are also big in the West, where enthusiastic crowds join their Asian friends to mark the occasion.
In London's Chinatown, Madame Tussauds Museum participated in the annual event Wednesday with its world renowned wax figures of celebrities.
"London celebrates Chinese New Year every year, and we were really keen to be part of those huge celebrations, and we wanted to do something a bit special with our wax figures, so we've actually loaned the figures of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan from our attractions in Asia, and we're just delighted they're here, albeit in a wet London, with us to celebrate," said Nicole Fenner of Madam Tussauds Musuem.
Chinese red lanterns add to the festive atmosphere. The lantern festival on the 15th day will mark the end of the Chinese New Year holiday.