(CNN) -- Tens of millions of Chinese across the world celebrate the start of the Lunar New Year, one of the most important traditional holidays.
Incense sticks were lit, fireworks were set off and families and friends gathered for meals in Chinese communities to usher in the Year of the Ox.
The Ox is the second of the 12 animal signs on the Chinese horoscope. Qualities attributed to people born in Ox years include modesty, a strong work ethic and patience.
The holiday comes during a more somber economic picture for China and as economists predict a continuation of the global economic slowdown. Indeed, noting a deepening recession, fortune tellers have warned that 2009 will not be a good year for people born in Ox years, such as newly elected U.S. president Barack Obama. Watch a Hong Kong fortune teller predict what 2009 will bring »
Inside China, 2008 began with a deadly ice and snow storm. The year also was marked by deadly unrest in Lhasa, Tibet, a massive earthquake, the historic Summer Olympics and a global economic crisis that reached the Asian nation's employment rolls. Read about the plight of migrant workers
China's 2008 annual growth rate was 9 percent, a blistering rate for most countries but the lowest figure for China in seven years.