Today is the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, met with celebrations and observations by ethnic Chinese and others around the world. This year, we welcome the Year of the Ox, the sign representing solemn hard work and prosperity - an animal that appears aptly symbolic for these difficult times. Millions of people traveled long distances to be with family during this Spring Festival, choking transit systems in China especially. Collected here are photographs of people celebrating and preparing for this Lunar New Year festivities.
A woman walks under red lanterns at a shopping mall in Shanghai January 16, 2009. Red decorations are customarily used by Chinese people all over the world to usher in the Lunar New Year, which falls on January 26 this year. The Year of the Ox is celebrated this year. :
Chinese New Year celebrations begin in Liverpool, north west England on January 25, 2009. The city's Chinatown is home to the oldest Chinese community in Europe, with many of the original members of the community arriving as seamen in the nineteenth century.
Steam and smoke engulf visitors to Longtan Park from stalls cooking food during a fair celebrating Chinese New Year in Beijing January 25, 2009.
Passengers holding stools line up to buy tickets in front of a railway station in Kunming, Yunnan province, China on January 16, 2009. China warned on Thursday that the mass migration home over the Chinese New Year holiday would be especially hard due to lack of train tickets and told rail officials to "use their brains" to ensure things run smoothly.
Passengers are seen crammed inside a carriage of a train at a railway station in Lanzhou, Gansu province, China on January 21, 2009
A man lights candles in a temple during Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations to mark the Year of the Ox in Chinatown in Jakarta, Indonesia on January 26, 2009.
Performers take part in the opening ceremony of a temple fair on the eve of Chinese New Year in Beijing, China, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2009. Temple fairs opened across the city as Chinese prepared to celebrate the year of the Ox.
A woman burns incense and prays for good fortune at the Baiyun Temple in Beijing on the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year January 26, 2009.
A Chinese man prays at a temple in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on January 26, 2009.
An elderly couple sits under lantern sculptures of mandarin orange trees as they gather to usher in the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year in Singapore on Saturday Jan. 24, 2009.
A man peers out from his costume during the opening ceremony for the Ditan Temple Fair in Beijing on January 25, 2009.
A woman, center, photographs performers at the opening ceremony of a temple fair on the eve of Chinese New Year in Beijing, China, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2009 .
Fireworks illuminate the skyline as people celebrate the Year of the Ox in Beijing, China on January 26, 2008.
uddhists rush to stick incense sticks in an urn at a local Chinese Buddhist temple on Monday Jan. 26, 2009 in Singapore. Every year, hundreds of Buddhist believers gather at a temple where they will vie to place their incense sticks in an urn at midnight marking an auspicious start to the Chinese lunar new year.
Fireworks to celebrate the Chinese New Year light up the sky above Beijing, China on January 26, 2009. Chinese welcomed the arrival of the Year of the Ox with raucous celebrations on Sunday despite gloom about the economy, setting off firecrackers in the streets and sending fireworks into the sky.
Two men launch a hot-air lantern to send New Year's wishes up to the sky in front of the Hanoi Opera House during Lunar New Year celebrations in Hanoi, Vietnam, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2009.
People watch fireworks to celebrate the Chinese New Year in Tianjin, China on January 25, 2009. :
Local residents crowd into Lung Shan Temple in Taipei on January 26, 2009 to offer prays for the new Lunar New Year.
A performer smokes a cigarette during a break from a show celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year at a temple fair in Beijing January 24, 2009.
A man prepares fireworks at a temple to celebrate the Chinese New Year in Hefei, Anhui province, China on January 26, 2009.
Artists dressed in Qing Dynasty costumes take part in a performance to worship heaven and pray for good harvests, at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China on January 26, 2009, where the emperors of the Ming and Qing Dyansties would traditionally pray for bumper crops twice a year.
Women perform during the opening ceremony of the temple fair at Ditan Park in Bejing, China on January 25, 2009.
An inmate waves a balloon during a ceremony to celebrate the upcoming Spring Festival at the Chuanxi Prison on January 24, 2009 in Chengdu of Sichuan Province, China. A total of 500 inmates who behave well in prisons in Sichuan Province are allowed to spend the Chinese New Year at home.
A visitor uses a mobile phone to take photographs of a giant lantern in the shape of an ox in Tianjin Municipality, China on January 23, 2009.
A man sorts dumplings in a kitchen at a village in Daxing, south of Beijing, China on Saturday Jan. 24, 2009. Villagers gathered Saturday to make thousands of meat dumplings in preparation for a feast to celebrate Chinese New Year, which begins Monday.
A man puts the finishing touches on a statue in front of a temple at the Chinatown district in Singapore ahead of the upcoming Chinese New Year celebration on January 17, 2009.
A Muslim woman maintains her tangerine trees, imported from China, as she waits for customers at her roadside stall in Jakarta, Indonesia on January 23, 2009. Tangerine trees are only sold once a year in Jakarta for the Chinese New Year.
Earthquake survivors have their Chinese New Year Eve's dinner at their temporary house settlement in Yingxiu town, in southwest China's Sichuan province Sunday, Jan. 25, 2009.
A Chinese man recites prayers at a temple in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on January 18, 2009.
A boy runs through shadows cast from Chinese lanterns hanging at a temple in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on January 18, 2009.
An actor dressed as the Chinese God of Fortune poses outside a shopping mall in Hong Kong on January 14, 2009 as part of the sales promotion for the upcoming Chinese Year of Ox starting January 26.
Workers put up decorations made of red lanterns at Thean Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on January 13, 2009.
South Koreans, who fled to from North to South Korea during the Korean War, kneel behind a wire border fence and bow in front of delicacies offered to their parents and relatives in North Korea to celebrate the Lunar New Year at the Imjingak Pavilion, near the border village of Panmunjom, north of Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Jan. 26, 2009.
Chen Ting, a Beijing Opera artiste from the Jiangsu Art Group of China, applies make-up for a Chinese Spring Festival performance at the Manoel Theatre in Valletta, Malta on January 19, 2009, ahead of the Lunar New Year celebrations on January 26.
The moon passes in front of the sun, during a partial solar eclipse, as it sets over Manila Bay, in the Philippines on January 26, 2009.
(REUTERS/Aly Song) (PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images) (REUTERS/David Gray) (REUTERS/Stringer) (REUTERS/Stringer). (REUTERS/Enny Nuraheni) (AP Photo/ Elizabeth Dalziel) (JASON LEE/Reuters) (REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad) (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E) (LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel) (LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images) (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E) (REUTERS/Reinhard Krause) (AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki) (REUTERS/Vincent Du) (SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images) (REUTERS/Christina Hu) (REUTERS/Jianan Yu) (LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images) (REUTERS/Reinhard Krause) (China Photos/Getty Images) (REUTERS/Vincent Du) (AP Photo/Greg Baker) (ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images) (REUTERS/Enny Nuraheni) (AP Photo) (REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad) (REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad) (REUTERS/Bobby Yip) (REUTERS/Zainal Abd Halim) (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man) (REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi) (REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco) PHOTOGRAPHERS :
MUSIC: Cheng Yu Classical Chinese Folk Music
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