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China Will Rack Up Three Billion Trips During World’s Biggest Human Migration

Travelers walk through the main hall of the Hongqiao Railway Station in Shanghai on Jan. 18.
Travelers walk through the main hall of the Hongqiao Railway Station in Shanghai on Jan. 18.Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
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It brings much of China’s economy to a halt and strains transport systems, not to mention waistlines. Lunar New Year is an annual ritual of family reunification and overindulgence. The scale of the migration is astounding: While an estimated 116 million Americans were on the move around the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, Chinese citizens will rack up about 3 billion trips during this year’s travel-fest. A widening outbreak of a virus that began in December has added some complications this year.

Also known as Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival, it marks the beginning of the lunar calendar and is China’s most important holiday, a period that’s seen as celebrating values like unity and family ties. People get a statutory seven days off beginning New Year’s Eve, which falls on Jan. 24 this year. (Many migrant workers seize what can often be their only chance in the year to return home.) Traditionally, the celebrations span 16 days, from a family feast on New Year’s Eve through to the Lantern Festival on day 15.