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China

China welcomes the arrival of the Year of the Snake

Feasting and fireworks across China have ushered in the lunar Year of the Snake. Hundreds of millions of migrant workers have made the trek home for the Spring Festival celebrations.

China's 1.3 billion people ushered in the lunar New Year on Sunday kicking off a week of festivities known as the Spring Festival. Leaving 2012's year of the dragon behind, Chinese revelers welcomed the Year of the Snake.

Fireworks erupted across China Saturday as the loud and colorful explosions are believed to scare off evil spirits and entice the god of wealth to people's doorsteps for the New Year.

State broadcaster China Central Television aired their annual New Year's Gala variety show during the countdown to the New Year, featuring Canadian singer Celine Dion and dozens of Chinese celebrities.

The Lunar New Year also marks the largest annual mass migration on earth with hundreds of millions of migrant workers travelling home from major cities. Migrant workers make up most of the 220 million train rides taken during the 40-day travel season before and after the Lunar New Year. For many, the New Year holiday is the only time of the year they can travel home to see their families.

In a New Year's message on Friday, China's Premier Wen Jiabao said “Let us unite around comrade Xi Jinping as the general secretary of the Communist Party, hold high the great banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics, be practical and realistic, forge ahead and strive to achieve the great revival for the Chinese nation.”

Party chief Xi, who takes over as president in March from Hu Jintao, met subway construction workers in Beijing ahead of the festivities. The visit maintains the tradition of leaders visiting ordinary people at this time of the year.

People born in the year of the snake, like Xi, are believed to be thoughtful and stylish yet complex characters.

The Chinese New Year hosts a plethora of taboos including crying on New Years day, and washing your hair which signifies washing away good luck.

The Chinese animal zodiac signs operated in a 12-year cycle, with the snake in sixth position.

hc/ccp (Reuters, dpa, AFP)