Today is the Lunar New Year. According to the Chinese Zodiac, it’s the first day of the year of the pig. And across the Asia Pacific, that’s meant everything from family gatherings to a pointed political statement.
This was the warmest Lunar New Year in Hong Kong in 66 years. That didn’t bother residents crowding into Taoist temples for celebrations. But it did hurt sales for florists offering peach blossoms and narcissus – which bloomed early because of the warm and humid weather.
In Beijing and Shanghai, it was a quieter celebration than in some years – fireworks have been severely restricted because of pollution concerns.
Those worries also linger in Thailand.
Despite the haze, the Bangkok Post reports that the Tourism Authority of Thailand expects the number of foreign visitors over New Year’s to rise 8 percent from a year ago – with many of those travelers coming from China.
Hundreds of travelers heading to China faced a surprise disappointment Monday when their Hong Kong based travel agency went out of business on New Year’s Eve, and immediately cancelled 18 tour groups bound for the mainland.
And there was a political note from Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen.
She delivered a video new years’ greeting saying “in Taiwan, we are able to maintain our cultural traditions, while also enjoying freedom and democracy. This is a blessing, and these are also the values that we Taiwanese are committed to upholding.”
While she made no reference to mainland China, she added “those in places lacking democracy may not be able to understand this commitment.”