China greets Lunar New Year with celebrations, travel rush

In this Jan. 28, 2019, photo, a Chinese girl poses for a souvenir photo with the cluster of pig sculptures on displayed outside a shopping mall in Nanning in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Chinese will celebrate Lunar New Year on Feb. 5 this year which marks the Year of the Pig on the Chinese zodiac. (Chinatopix via AP)
A huge peach blossom is displayed as Chinese New Year decorations at an office building in Hong Kong, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. Chinese will celebrate the lunar new year on Feb. 5 this year which marks the Year of the Pig in the Chinese zodiac. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Chinese New Year decorations are displayed at an office building in Hong Kong, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. Chinese will celebrate the lunar new year on Feb. 5 this year which marks the Year of the Pig in the Chinese zodiac. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
In this Jan. 28, 2019, photo, Chinese travelers wait for their trains at a railway station in Hangzhou in east China's Zhejiang province. The world's largest annual migration has began in China with millions of Chinese are traveling to their hometowns to celebrate the Lunar New Year on Feb. 5 this year which marks the Year of the Pig on the Chinese zodiac. (Chinatopix via AP)

BEIJING — China is greeting next week's Lunar New Year with celebrations and a travel rush that will see an estimated 3 billion trips by people around the country.

Thousands of passengers toted bundles of clothes and gifts at Beijing train station Friday, ahead of the most important holiday on the Chinese calendar. It's a time for people to return to their hometowns to reunite with family and friends.

"Wow, there's a lot of people," Li Pingping, a beauty salon worker from Henan province, said as she steeled herself for a 17-hour train ride home.

The year of the pig in the 12-year Chinese astrological cycle starts Tuesday, waving farewell to the year of the dog.

On the festival's eve, people gather for reunion dinners, give red packets of pocket money to youngsters and light firecrackers at midnight.

The capital, Beijing, and other cities are festooned with lanterns and other decorations to mark the holiday, which is also celebrated in Vietnam and by ethnic Chinese communities around Asia.

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