By Judy Ogutu
Beijing, China: In many parts of Kenya, the thought of a snake evokes fear, not so in China.
On Sunday, China ushered its Lunar New Year, marking the beginning of the Year of the Snake.
Every year, the Chinese zodiac assigns one of the 12 animals to each year. Last year for instance was the Year of the Dragon and next year will be the Year of the Horse. Usually, the snake ranks sixth in the cycle. The other animals are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.
According to Xinhua News Agency, snakes were worshipped by the oldest Chinese as a totem. A totem is an object, animal, plant, or other natural phenomenon revered as a symbol of a clan or society, and often used in rituals among some peoples.
The news agency further explains that former Chinese leader Mao Zedong and Xi Jinping, the newly elected General Secretary of the Communist Party of China are among those born under the sign of snake.
And in a special spring festival interview with China's national TV station CCTV, Mr Farzam Kamalabadi explained that the snake is associated with smartness, softness and tenderness. He is the Chairman and President of Future Trends International Group Corporation.
Hundreds of millions of Chinese travelled from different parts of China to their hometowns in readiness for New Year.
During this period which is viewed as the largest migration of human beings in the world, the Chinese travel to their home provinces in order to re-unite with their families.
In the course of the celebrations travellers in China are this year expected to make massive movements. This is because it has been a tradition among Chinese that those living apart from their families return home during the festive period. According to China Daily, the railway alone is expected to transport 225million passengers.
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The traditional Chinese New Year is the country’s most important holiday in the Lunar Calendar with a one week public holiday. It is also known as the Spring Festival because it starts from the beginning of the spring.
Dates of this annual celebration are usually determined by the Lunar Calendar and so the timing of the event varies from late January to early February. The Chinese New Year is not only one day as it lasts up to the fifteenth day of the first lunar month.
During this period, the older relatives will give red envelopes filled with money to young members as a way of wishing them luck. The young members usually express good wishes to the older members of the family.