DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Today marks the start of the Year of the Dog. The Lunar New Year is celebrated in China, Vietnam and many other countries and by ethnic Asian communities all around the world. NPR's Anthony Kuhn has this story from the Chinese capital, Beijing.
ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: First, there's the rush to get home. Authorities estimate the Chinese will take more than half a billion train trips during this year's holiday season. Passengers are increasingly riding bullet trains home as the country builds out the world's largest high-speed rail system. On Chinese New Year's Eve, folks traditionally enjoy a meal of dumplings or fish, which symbolize abundance. But overseas travel is fast becoming a new tradition. So holiday-makers may just as likely be noshing on pizza or burritos or sushi.
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KUHN: Every year, Chinese state television airs what, by some accounts, is the world's most-watched program, a five-hour-long variety show - almost as much of a tradition as grumbling about the same old propaganda-heavy song and dance numbers. Many rural residents still welcome the new year with the din and smoke of fireworks. But in Beijing last night, you could practically hear a pin drop. And the banning of fireworks contributed to some of the best winter air the capital has seen in years. Kids especially look forward to cash gifts in red envelopes that grown-ups give them. But now they just give and get digital money via messaging apps on their cell phones.
Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, local media have a tradition of visiting fortune-tellers to see how the year might go. Each year of the Chinese calendar is not only associated with 1 of 12 animals but also 1 of 5 elements. This year's dog is an earth dog, and earth dogs tend to snuff out fire dogs. So people born in fire dog years may be in for a rough one. That reportedly includes President Trump who, if you believe the Hong Kong soothsayers, could be in for a dog of a year.
Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing.
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GREENE: Let's look ahead to All Things Considered later this afternoon. We're going to hear how Kentucky is considering a plan to place armed marshals inside schools. You can listen by asking your smart speaker to play NPR or your local member station by name.
(SOUNDBITE OF GOLD PANDA'S "SAME DREAM CHINA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.