In Pictures: Welcoming the year of the horse

From contemplative prayer to eye-popping fireworks, celebrations marking Chinese New Year are always spectacular.


Hong Kong - The Lunar New Year, also known as Spring Festival, began on January 31 and lasts for 15 days.

Here in Hong Kong, the Year of the Horse, as it has been dubbed by the Chinese Zodiac system, is welcomed with shows and celebrations around the city, replete with various fairs, flower markets, and astonishing pyrotechnic displays.

It's the most important holiday for Chinese people and the time for a mix of family reunions, huge dinners and prayerful solemnity.

For some, the celebration traditionally begins at the temple, where they light incense and perform rituals to worship the gods and ask for good fortune in the coming year. Most offices, banks, and public utilities are closed during the holiday period.

On the second day, the annual "night parade" is held at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, attracting foreign guests and local government officials who enjoy a splendid show with floats parading along the streets, with a carnival of dancers, drummers and other performers.

A 20-minute firework display over the Victoria Harbour follows the parade and brings the night's celebrations to a riotous close.

According to Chinese tradition, the Year of the Horse - one of twelve animals cycled through annually - is often associated with change, and many here are certain the year ahead will be packed with tumultuous opportunities.