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WATCH: China celebrates the Year of the Rabbit with most COVID-19 rules lifted

origin 1Visitors burn incense as they pray on the first day of the Lunar New Year holiday at the Lama Temple in Beijing on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023. ©AP Photo

On Sunday, people across China celebrated the Lunar New Year with large family gatherings and temple-visiting crowds after the government lifted its strict “zero-COVID-19” policy, marking the biggest holiday celebration since inception of the pandemic three years ago.

The Lunar New Year is the most important annual holiday in China. Each year is named after one of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac in a repeating cycle, this year being the Year of the Rabbit. For the past three years, celebrations have been muted due to the pandemic.

With the easing of most of the COVID-19 restrictions that had confined millions to their homes, people could finally make their first trip back to their hometowns to reunite with their families without worrying about the inconveniences of quarantine, the potential travel bans and suspensions.