A Chinese dragon-shaped lantern is seen at the Chinese Lantern Festival in Tirana, capital of Albania. Albania joined the celebration of the Chinese New Year, with a ceremony marking the opening of "Happy Chinese New Year-The Chinese Lantern Festival" event in the capital. Picture: Liu Lihang/Xinhua
A Chinese dragon-shaped lantern is seen at the Chinese Lantern Festival in Tirana, capital of Albania. Albania joined the celebration of the Chinese New Year, with a ceremony marking the opening of "Happy Chinese New Year-The Chinese Lantern Festival" event in the capital. Picture: Liu Lihang/Xinhua
A woman sells seafood in a temporary night market to mark Chinese New Year in Bangkok. Picture: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters
A woman sells seafood in a temporary night market to mark Chinese New Year in Bangkok. Picture: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters
A group performs on a glass skywalk to mark Chinese New Year in Bangkok. Picture: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters
A group performs on a glass skywalk to mark Chinese New Year in Bangkok. Picture: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters
A Chinese lion dances on a glass skywalk to mark the Chinese New Year in Bangkok. Picture: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters
A Chinese lion dances on a glass skywalk to mark the Chinese New Year in Bangkok. Picture: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Chinese lions dance on the glass of the Skywalk to mark Chinese New Year in Bangkok. Picture: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Chinese lions dance on the glass of the Skywalk to mark Chinese New Year in Bangkok. Picture: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters
A Chinese lion dances on the glass of a skywalk to mark Chinese New Year in Bangkok. Picture: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters
A Chinese lion dances on the glass of a skywalk to mark Chinese New Year in Bangkok. Picture: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Performers rehearse a re-enactment of a Chinese New Year Qing Dynasty ceremony at the Temple of Earth in Ditan Park in Beijing. Picture: Thomas Peter/Reuters
Performers rehearse a re-enactment of a Chinese New Year Qing Dynasty ceremony at the Temple of Earth in Ditan Park in Beijing. Picture: Thomas Peter/Reuters
Rehearsal for a Chinese New Year Qing Dynasty ceremony at the Temple of Earth in Ditan Park in Beijing. Picture: Thomas Peter/Reuters
Rehearsal for a Chinese New Year Qing Dynasty ceremony at the Temple of Earth in Ditan Park in Beijing. Picture: Thomas Peter/Reuters
People buy Chinese New Year decorations at a New Year market in Hong Kong's Victoria Park. Chinese will celebrate the lunar new year on February 5 this year which marks the Year of the Pig in the Chinese zodiac. Picture: Vincent Yu/AP
People buy Chinese New Year decorations at a New Year market in Hong Kong's Victoria Park. Chinese will celebrate the lunar new year on February 5 this year which marks the Year of the Pig in the Chinese zodiac. Picture: Vincent Yu/AP
People buy Chinese New Year decorations at a New Year market in Hong Kong's Victoria Park. Picture: Vincent Yu/AP
People buy Chinese New Year decorations at a New Year market in Hong Kong's Victoria Park. Picture: Vincent Yu/AP
Rehearsal for a Chinese New Year Qing Dynasty ceremony at the Temple of Earth in Ditan Park in Beijing. Picture: Thomas Peter/Reuters
Rehearsal for a Chinese New Year Qing Dynasty ceremony at the Temple of Earth in Ditan Park in Beijing. Picture: Thomas Peter/Reuters
Rehearsal for a Chinese New Year Qing Dynasty ceremony at the Temple of Earth in Ditan Park in Beijing, Picture: Thomas Peter/Reuters
Rehearsal for a Chinese New Year Qing Dynasty ceremony at the Temple of Earth in Ditan Park in Beijing, Picture: Thomas Peter/Reuters
Rehearsal for a Chinese New Year Qing Dynasty ceremony at the Temple of Earth in Ditan Park in Beijing. Picture: Thomas Peter/Reuters
Rehearsal for a Chinese New Year Qing Dynasty ceremony at the Temple of Earth in Ditan Park in Beijing. Picture: Thomas Peter/Reuters
Rehearsal for a Chinese New Year Qing Dynasty ceremony at the Temple of Earth in Ditan Park in Beijing. Picture: Thomas Peter/Reuters
Rehearsal for a Chinese New Year Qing Dynasty ceremony at the Temple of Earth in Ditan Park in Beijing. Picture: Thomas Peter/Reuters
Rehearsal for a Chinese New Year Qing Dynasty ceremony at the Temple of Earth in Ditan Park in Beijing. Picture: Thomas Peter/Reuters
Rehearsal for a Chinese New Year Qing Dynasty ceremony at the Temple of Earth in Ditan Park in Beijing. Picture: Thomas Peter/Reuters
Rehearsal for a Chinese New Year Qing Dynasty ceremony at the Temple of Earth in Ditan Park in Beijing. Picture: Thomas Peter/Reuters
Rehearsal for a Chinese New Year Qing Dynasty ceremony at the Temple of Earth in Ditan Park in Beijing. Picture: Thomas Peter/Reuters
Rehearsal for a Chinese New Year Qing Dynasty ceremony at the Temple of Earth in Ditan Park in Beijing. Picture: Thomas Peter/Reuters
Rehearsal for a Chinese New Year Qing Dynasty ceremony at the Temple of Earth in Ditan Park in Beijing. Picture: Thomas Peter/Reuters
Chinese New Year decorations are displayed at a street in Hong Kong. Picture: Vincent Yu/AP
Chinese New Year decorations are displayed at a street in Hong Kong. Picture: Vincent Yu/AP
A phoenix-shaped lantern is seen at the Chinese Lantern Festival in Tirana, capital of Albania. Picture: Liu Lihang/Xinhua
A phoenix-shaped lantern is seen at the Chinese Lantern Festival in Tirana, capital of Albania. Picture: Liu Lihang/Xinhua

Beijing - The Lunar New Year is the most important Chinese holiday when families gather to eat, relax and set off fireworks in celebration of ancient traditions and new beginnings.

In the days surrounding the holiday, the world's largest annual human migration sees hundreds of millions of people travel to their hometowns.

Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year due to the Chinese lunar calendar. This year, the Year of the Earth Pig starts on February 5.

On New Year's Eve, families gather for festive feasts and games of mahjong and poker. Young people receive good luck gifts of red envelopes filled with money. A modern twist also sees virtual red envelopes exchanged among family members and friends via the messaging app WeChat.

Chinese New Year decorations are displayed at a New Year market in Hong Kong's Victoria Park. Picture: Vincent Yu/AP

Families spend the evening watching the celebrity-laden marathon television program Spring Festival Gala, which has lost some of its shine in recent years due to decreased viewership.

Lunar New Year celebrations are supposed to be loud, which means fireworks can be heard exploding at all hours of the night and day. Red envelopes and fireworks are meant to scare off "guonian," the monster of the previous 12 months, and usher in a lucky new year.

For the past two years, however, fireworks have been banned in some of the biggest centres including Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin.

A woman sells seafood in a temporary night market to mark Chinese New Year in Bangkok. Picture: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters

The dishes served at the Chinese New Year vary according to the region. Northern Chinese families prepare dumplings, while people near Shanghai make sure they eat as many types of meat as possible to attract wealth in the new year.

Families decorate their doors with red paper cut-outs of the word for luck, "fu," as well as images of fish, bats and the animal assigned to the new year - in this case, the pig. The side of doors are adorned with couplets of blessings.

Giant panda-shaped lanterns are seen at the Chinese Lantern Festival in Tirana, capital of Albania. Picture: Liu Lihang/Xinhua

Those who share the zodiac sign of the new year can expect a year full of challenges, so they need to always wear something red, such as a bracelet, for protection.

On the second and third days of the new year, families visit relatives. Discussions often focus on young people, who talk about their work, housing and relationship status. A recent trend, however, has seen increasing numbers of urban youth travel abroad instead of returning home.

dpa