Today is the New Year’s celebration for about one-quarter of the world’s population, as celebrated by Chinese and other Asian cultures. It’s the most important celebration in the Chinese calendar.
In China, this is the time of the year when “the largest annual movement of humans in the world” occurs. In modern China many people go to work in the factories located in major cities, leaving their families behind in their home villages. New Year is the most important Chinese celebration and the time for people to celebrate with families.
So, each year about 700 million people, twice the entire population of the U.S., use trains, buses, planes and boats to go home for the holidays. The Chinese say “Rich or poor go home for the new year.” Big cities that are manufacturing hubs become near ghost towns during New Year. Mass transit systems are overloaded before the New Year’s celebration, and again afterwards as everyone heads back to work.
Chinese internet provider Baidu has traced the travel of people using its smartphone maps. The map image they’ve published is pretty amazing.
With all that, the real story is the New Year’s celebration itself. Also known as the Lunar New Year, this year is the Year of the Goat (or Sheep, depending upon the translation) in the Chinese Zodiac.
From the ever-wonderful Wikipedia:
The Chinese commonly regard sheep as an auspicious animal, and the Year of the Sheep, therefore, heralds a year of promise and prosperity.
Individuals born in this zodiac year have been supposed to share certain characteristics with other individuals also born in years of the same animal sign. Similarly, years sharing the same animal sign have been supposed to share certain characteristics, repeating over their 12/60 year cycle. The shared characteristics in this case are traits attributed to goats.
Due to the luni-solar nature of the traditional Chinese calendar system, the “zodiacal” year does not align with the Western calendar: new years are determined by a system which results in each New Year beginning on a new moon occurring from late January to mid-to-late February. Goat aspects can also enter by other chronomantic factors or measures, such as hourly.
In Chinese astrology Goats are described as loving-peace and “kind” and “popular”. With the addition of the wood element, the Goat characteristic is thought to love peace and to be helpful and trusting, but yet also to be “clinging” and of a nature resistant to change.Wikipedia – Chinese Zodiac (Goat)
So to everyone celebrating today, 新年快乐 (‘Xin nian kuai le’) ( ‘Happy New Year’)!