AP PHOTOS: East Asia marks Lunar New Year of the Rabbit

BEIJING (AP) β€” From Jakarta to Seoul, Bangkok to Beijing, people in Asia have been celebrating the Lunar New Year marking the start of the Year of the Rabbit.

Lunar New Year is the most important holiday in the Chinese calendar, a time to gather with family, reconnect with friends and indulge in food and drink. Each year in the Chinese zodiac is believed to bear the characteristics of its namesake animal, with the Year of the Rabbit considered one of calm and contemplation β€” a good time to form partnerships and, for many, hopefully start making money again.

This year is particularly special for many in mainland China because it follows the lifting last month of draconian COVID-19 restrictions, allowing a return to many aspects of normal life.

The abrupt lifting of containment measures led to a surge of new cases, but the worst appears to be over in Beijing at least, and most seem content to live with a degree of risk.

β€œIn general, life is returning to normal because most people are healthy now,” said Zhang Yiwen, who arrived Sunday morning with his wife and two sons from the nearby city of Tangshan to celebrate New Year’s Day in Beijing’s bustling Qianmen tourist area. β€œI look forward to seeing how the economy grows in the new year and what the country can accomplish in the International market.”

Much of the festivities involve visiting temples and burning sticks of incense to please traditional Chinese deities and bring good fortune for the months ahead.

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