AP PHOTOS: China celebrates Lunar New Year ahead of Olympics

BEIJING (AP) — The Lunar New Year in China and the Winter Olympics in Beijing get started only days apart this year.

Bing Dwen Dwen, the chubby panda with the cute smile that is serving as the Olympic mascot, celebrated the Year of the Tiger with locals in Beijing on Monday night

Revelers around the host city celebrated and took photos outside displays for the Beijing Games at Tiananmen Square.

The Lunar New Year is the most important annual holiday in China. Each year it is named after one of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac, with this year being the Year of the Tiger.

This year’s holiday has seen fewer people return to their hometowns for traditional family gatherings because of the coronavirus pandemic.

China’s strict pandemic policies can lead to the swift lockdown of towns and cities