Like the celebration of Christmas in many western countries, the weeklong Lunar New Year holiday traditionally provides a significant chunk of annual revenue for many businesses in China and other Asian countries.
Now squeezed by the global economic slump, many Chinese families and companies are cutting their spending on gifts and banquets to welcome the Year of the Ox, which begins January 26.
Here are some details on the Lunar New Year:
Each year in the 12-year Chinese lunar calendar, in use for more than 2,000 years, is represented by an animal.
And people born in a given animal's year are said to share its qualities -- passion and cunning for the Year of the Rat, duty and persistent strength for the Year of the Ox, confidence and energy for the Year of the Horse.
China and other Asian nations switched to the Western calendar in the 20th century for business and government, but the lunar calendar's new year and autumn moon festival still are popular in China, including the mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao -- and other neighbouring nations like Vietnam, Singapore -- and in Chinatowns from Sydney to New York.
As families gather and exchange gifts, hold banquets, set off fireworks and visit temples to mark the new year, the millions of migrants who have moved to China's cities to work return home for what is usually their single annual visit.
COMMERCE AND TRAVEL:
In China's peak shopping season, families typically throng restaurants and cinemas. More than 200 million Chinese are expected to travel this year for the holiday in one of the biggest migrations of people.