Lunar New Year in Beijing January 31

About 3 weeks ago I noticed a number of colourful structures appearing on the streets of Beijing. There were about 3 along the route I take every day to go from my apartment to my language school.
At first I did not know what they were but after a few days I realised they were pop up stores to sell fireworks. For a number of days, nothing happened around them. But on last Saturday they were legally allowed to sell fireworks and night by night there has been more and more colour in the night sky with the accompanying noise.
Even before the fireworks stores were opened, I noticed some of the small stores were closed. The owners of the stores had closed up shop to return to their home village to visit their family for the celebrations of the New Year and Spring festival. It is a time when being together as families takes precedence over work and making money for a living. There is a huge movement of people before and during the festival time. The China Ministry of Transport estimates that there will be 3.62 billion trips made during this time! It is an incredible mass movement of people. Beijing has visibly emptied. Yesterday (Jan 29) I was able to get on the subway in peak hour and get a seat straight away whereas there is usually we are squashed in. This is all before the official holiday period which begins on January 31. And as there are fewer people there is less rush and less pushing and shoving to get on and off public transport.
People are also visibly happier. Yesterday, I went to change some money at Travelex. I had pre-ordered the money and the assistant told me he was glad to see me because I was his last customer before he went on holidays. When I wished him happy New Year, he told me my Chinese was very good!
Despite the cold, the warmth and generosity of the people is making the spring festival time a great time to be in Beijing.
May the New Year of the Horse be good to you.
Xin Nian Kuai Le!