China Residents to Make 3.4 Billion Trips for 15-Day Lunar New Year Holiday

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By Vittorio Hernandez | February 8, 2013 9:43 AM EST

About one-sixth of the world population would slowdown for the next 15 days to celebrate the Chinese lunar New Year which starts Feb 10.

Chinese are expected to make a total of 3.4 billion trips during the two-week holiday, including migrant workers in cities who will return to the countryside to spend China's biggest holiday, equivalent to the yearend Christmas celebration in many western nations.

The travelers, who are jamming trains, airplanes and buses, must be home by Saturday to welcome the Chinese year of the snake.

The Chinese New Year is based on the country's version of zodiac signs which follows a 12-year cycle. The previous snake years were 2001, 1989 and 1977.

Based on the Year of the Snake sign, the Chinese believe people born in snake years will have inauspicious and difficult periods from time to time for the next 12 months, but they will be lucky financially through stable income from various sources, but not gambling.

To attract luck through the year, Raymond Ma, portfolio manager of the Fidelity China Consumer fund, pointed to six R's as their ladder to financial success in the Chinese equity market. These are recovery, reverse, reform, reflation, re-railing and rally.

However, Mr Ma warned of dangers or snakes in the form of inflation, depreciation of the Japanese currency, a longer eurozone crisis and an earlier end of quantitative easing in the U.S.

The optimism is shared by Hong Kong retailers which hope to benefit from the two-week holiday in terms of better sales. Even western retailers have joined the celebration by launching promotional campaigns.

Gap gave away Chinese New Year-themed T-shirts and tote bags for every purchase over $65, while Marks & Spencer slashed seasonal food prices by 20 per cent. Starbucks is selling gift envelopes with New Year designs, and Apple Asia had a Red Friday on Jan 25 by offering reduced prices for customers in Hong Kong and other Asian countries.

Some Chinese, though, prefer to travel overseas to celebrate the New Year. Australia is expecting 20,000 of them for the next two weeks. The foreign visitors, however, will not totally miss the Chinese-style of New Year celebrations since some cities like Cairns are holding street festivals.

Over the airwaves, ABC Local Radio will have a two-hour special that features Chinese chef, Poh Ling Yeow of Poh's Kitchen, a performance by singer-songwriter Sophie Koh and talk by Senator Penny Wong. ABC Extra will also feature for four days shows that will showcase Asian culture, food, history and music.

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