Fashion marketing executive John Rex de Guzman usually observes Lunar New Year celebrations by staying home and eating niangao- the sweet and sticky rice cakes he receives from his Chinese Filipino friends.
But after pursuing a master's in Asian Studies and learning about Chinese culture, he decided to go to Binondo, Manila's Chinatown, to take part in this year's festivities in the capital of the Philippines.
"I love the festive decor. I enjoy seeing those Chinese lanterns," he said, pointing to many adorning the neighborhood streets.
He also enjoyed eating noodles and dumplings in Chinese-Filipino restaurants and watching lion dance performances in the eateries. Lawyer Dennis Gorecho has joined the festivities in Binondo for years. A photography enthusiast and food lover, he relishes taking pictures of the area and feasting on noodles. Gorecho is keen on Chinese astrology. He said he was born in the Year of the Dog and, quoting his research on the subject, described himself as strong, ambitious and self-reliant.
De Guzman and Gorecho's experiences reflect those of many people in the Asia-Pacific region who take part in Spring Festival celebrations each year.
In Bali, Indonesia, thousands dine in Chinese restaurants and visit the many Chinese and Buddhist temples dotting island. Worshippers also gather in Buddhist and Taoist temples across Thailand, Brunie, Vietnam, South Korea and Singapore, lighting joss sticks and wishing for new year blessings.
Lion and dragon dances were performed in restaurants in Yokohama, Japan, and in malls in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. In Australia, red lights lit up the Sydney Opera House to welcome the Year of the Pig.
Most of the festivities in Sydney centered on Chinatown. Retired veterinarian Tony Devlin said he learned about them from his clients, allowing him to know just how big until I went to see the parade in George Street some years ago.
"It started in Chinatown and moved slowly up George Street, complete with drums and a dragon," he said.
Devlin said that holding such celebrations every year is "terrific" for a country such as Australia, which prides itself on being "a multicultural melting pot."
Baizurah Basri, senior laboratory assistant at a university in Sabah, Malaysia, celebrates Spring Festival by visiting her maternal grandparents and other relatives from her mother's side of the family.
Like most people from Sabah, Basri is proud of her mixed heritage. Her father is from the indigenous Bajau community, while her mother is from Sabah's Sino-Kadazan community-the product of intermarriage between Chinese immigrants and the indigenous Kadazan tribe. Basri learned about Chinese culture from her maternal grandparents. This is why in addition to celebrating Lunar New Year with them, she has learned about other aspects of Chinese culture, such as astrology and feng shui.
"I was born in 1981; therefore I am a Metal Rooster. I wear accessories as protection and this is based on my Chinese astrology. I also arrange my furniture based on feng shui," she said.
Analysts said such celebrations are not only important for the ethnic Chinese community, but also promote Chinese culture and contribute to a country's diversity.
James Laurenceson, deputy director of the Australia-China Relations Institute at the University of Technology Laurencenson, deputy director Spring Festival is not only an important part of Chinese culture but is becoming a key area of Australian culture.
"Chinese culture is helping to shape Australian culture. You only have to look at the number of people that turn during Spring Festival to see that," he said.
Hans Hendrischke, professor of Chinese business and management at the University of Sydney Business School, said one central factor of the Lunar New Year's celebrations "is the bringing together of people -family and friends".
"Here in Sydney, the tradition of Chinese New Year celebrations has grown to embrace other lunar festivals such as Tet (in Vietnam) and the Korean (new year), " he said.
Lourdes Nepomuceno, director of Confucius Institute at the University of the Philippines, said celebrating Spring Festival and other holidays is a "tangible cultural heritage and cultural promotion".
"During Lunar New Year, the spectacular extravaganzas, the colorful displays and the modernized approach to staging such an ancient festival are more than just entertainment. It is a community event and a public spectacle that attracts many locals," she said.
"During Lunar New Year, the spectacular extravaganzas, the colorful displays and the modernized approach to staging such an ancient festival are more than just entertainment. It is a community event and a public spectacle that attracts many locals." Lourdes Nepomuceno, director of the Confucius Institute at the University of the Philippines.