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Asia welcomes Year of the Rabbit

By the CNN.com International Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The holiday is often considered the biggest holiday in Asia
  • It is also called the Spring Festival to mark the beginning of spring
  • Holiday includes dances, fireworks, firecrackers, temple visits and envelopes of money
  • In China the rabbit is associated with the moon

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Hong Kong, China (CNN) -- The Year of the Rabbit began Thursday -- the first day of the lunar new year -- with most stock markets and businesses across Asia closed.

The rabbit is the fourth in a cycle of 12 animals representing the Chinese zodiac and follows the tiger.

The holiday -- also known as the Spring Festival -- is often considered the biggest holiday and the biggest annual migration of people in the world, with millions of people heading home to spend with families.

Within China itself, 2,000 trains daily service 2 billion individual journeys, CNN's Stan Grant reports.

Traveling home for Chinese New Year
RELATED TOPICS
  • China
  • Asia

Celebrations have included traditional lion, dragon and folk dances, fireworks and firecrackers, red lanterns, temple visits and incense burning as well as flower markets to mark the arrival of spring. Red envelopes of money is also traditionally given to children and single people.

In Singapore on Wednesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong used his annual Chinese New Year message to call on citizens to reverse a low birth rate and follow the rabbit's example and reproduce.

Read more about Singapore Prime Minister Lee's address

In China, the rabbit is particularly associated with the moon; the so-called Jade Rabbit is the companion of the Moon Goddess, and both are said to live on the moon, according to Chinese folklore.

The year of the rabbit has led to an increase in rabbit orders in China, with many pets not surviving the shipping process, according to Shanghai Daily.

Read about how the holiday is leading to impulse pet buys

The Shanghai office of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals issued a statement on Friday urging people not to bring a rabbit into their home for the holiday.

The Lantern Festival, celebrated on the 15th night of the first lunar month, marks the end of the Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, celebration.