Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, is celebrated for sixteen days (from New Year's Eve to the Lantern Festival). It is one of the most important traditional festival for family. The date of Chinese New Year is based on the Chinese lunar calendar, not the Gregorian calendar, but is always somewhere in the period from January 21 to February 20. Chinese people believe that a good start to the year will lead to a lucky year. In 2016, Chinese New Year was on February 7 (Sunday) but the celebration span for a period of 40 days. It is Monkey Year for Chinese and believed to be the most unlucky for people born in a year of the Monkey.

The main traditional celebrations of the festival include eating reunion dinner with family, giving red envelopes, firecrackers, new clothes, and decorations. It is a time for families to be together. Wherever they are, people come home to celebrate the festival with their families. The New Year's Eve dinner is called reunion dinner and is believed to be the most important meal of the year. Big families of several generations sit around round tables and enjoy the food and time together. For many it's the only chance they get to visit their families all year.

(Travellers waiting for their turn at Railway Station in Beijing (c) Reuters)

Chinese New Year sees the largest annual human migration in the world as millions of people in China make the journey home to visit their families. Migrant workers in China travel home to have with their families on Chinese New Year's Eve. Owing to the large number of inter-provincial travellers, special arrangements were made by railways, buses and airlines starting from 15 days before the New Year's Day. This 40-day period is called "Chunyun", and is known as the world's largest annual migration. More interurban trips are taken in mainland China in this period than the total population of China.

During Chinese New Year, big cities become empty, near ghost towns, as millions of migrants workers return home for the holidays. There's a saying in Chinese: Rich or poor, go home for the new year." For migrant workers, the weeklong holiday around Chinese New Year is often the only opportunity for them to see the parents and children they left behind in rural villages.

Some key figures recorded during 40 days holiday period:

  • 700 million people travel - twice the enire population of the US
  • 2.91 billion trips are taken in all modes of transport
  • 220 million train rides are done
  • 70,000 officers were deployed to train stations nationwide

This mass migration is the largest annual movement of humans in the world. For the past couple years, Chinese internet giant Baidu has traced the travel of people using its smartphone maps. Baidu Migrate, a map that visualizes the routes that people are taking to get home. It is self-updated every eight hours and shows not only the overlaying routes and migration patterns, but also lists migration trends to and from major cities. Big industrial cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen light up as major hubs. However, it is not possible to find out the direction people are going. 

This year, there were some new options available for commuters, including Didi helped users share intercity rides at prices comparable to train fares.