HONG KONG (BP) -- Bodies press against each other as everyone tries to get a better position in the line outside Hong Kong's most famous shrine, Wong Tai Sin Temple. Hundreds of people are standing shoulder-to-shoulder, with only a thin rope holding the crowd in place.[QUOTE@left@205=VIDEO: The Chinese lunar year starts as people race into a temple with incense sticks seeking a blessing.]We are waiting for the "year of the dragon" to begin. I look around and realize that I'm the only one not carrying fistfuls of incense sticks. This is my first time experiencing Chinese New Year like this -- in my parents' homeland and with traditions that go back thousands of years. This is the most important festival for more than a quarter of the world's population. The excitement from the crowd is electric as drums beat out the "countdown." [QUOTE@left@205=VIDEO: Experiencing his first Chinese New Year, Chinese-American videographer T.Y. Po voices a prayer.]Finally, the clock strikes 11 p.m. The lunar year starts with a roar from the crowd as the rope drops. The mass of people surges forward, racing into the temple with their incense sticks. A gray-haired man lunges at the altar and his incense stick is the first to touch the stone. Others crash in around him, just milliseconds behind. The man ignores the jostling and pushing around him that almost causes the statue to crash to the ground. He bows three times and closes his eyes in thoughtful prayer. He gained the honor of being the first to bring his offering to Wong Tai Sin, a Chinese deity who grants the power of healing. In exchange for the first offering, he believes he will receive a special blessing.
HONG KONG (BP) -- Train stations and airports are teeming with people anxious to reunite with family over the most important holiday of the year for Chinese around the world -- Chinese New Year. So many people travel during this time that it's often called the "single greatest migration of people" on earth. It's Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled into one. And like these American holidays, Chinese New Year is all about family -- it's a time to reconnect with loved ones.