Having lived in Asia for over 15 years, I've been right through the Chinese zodiac and round again, and while Chinese New Year is always a special time, this particular cycle is the most special of all. Chinese New Year traditionally brings frenetic prayer and wishes for health, wealth, happiness and yet more wealth -- but January 23, 2012 has an added bonus. This year is the Year of the Dragon, one of the luckiest, most powerful signs in the zodiac.
When the dragon enters, couples go queueing to get married or start getting down to business in the bedroom to benefit from such an auspicious sign. But before you tie the knot or go procreating, here are eight (lucky number, natch) things you need to know and/or do to start the lunar new year off with a bang, no pun intended.
Buy New Shoes and Clothes
Here is your chance to turn a want into a need, as if you needed an excuse. Yes, you really do have to buy yourself a new pair of shoes and clothes to welcome in the new year, preferably with a splash of red. Now, didn't you have your eyes on a pair of Christian Louboutin heels?
Get a Haircut
New year, new you, so get yourself off to your favourite hairdresser to make sure you wake up with a good hair day. Just as importantly, no snipping off your locks for a month after, or you'll be cutting away your prosperity as well. You wouldn't want that.
Give Out Red Packets
Married people and bosses should stock up on crisp bank notes and stuff them into red "lai see" packets to give out to children, who should kowtow before you in appreciation of your generosity. Feel free to hand them out to your staff and associates too, but whatever you do, don't give any amount with a 4 in it, even if it's $4 million: That's just wishing them bad luck.
Let off Some Firecrackers
Scare away all the bad spirits and evildoers around you by letting off firecrackers, the louder the better. That's probably illegal where you are, so go watch a lion dance or fireworks display instead, at your local Chinatown. If you're in Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, South Korea and other parts of Asia, there's bound to a big pyrotechnic show in town.
Clean the House
It's out with the old to make way for the new. That means giving your home a good whip 'round with a duster and sorting through your wardrobe and cupboards and tossing out the crud or donating things you don't need -- but are still in good order -- to charity. Be sure to sweep the floor of dirt, taking the bad luck out with it, but put your brooms out of sight on the day itself. No sweeping up messes either, or you may send your good luck out the door.
Decorate Your Home With Bright Colours
Anyone who's spent time in Chinese restaurants will know how fond they are of bright lights and gaudy colours. For the lunar new year, you need to get in on the action by turning up the wattage. In addition, red and gold displays will give your home that festive look -- and hopefully help bring in more good fortune. No need to go overboard, a simple bowl of oranges or mandarins will do nicely, thank you. While you're at it, check your home's feng shui is all aligned to divert money through your door.
Hang out With Family and Pay Your Respects
Just like Christmas, Chinese New Year is about spending it with family. Before doing so, many people will race off to a temple to make offerings to the gods and ancestors -- in return for striking it rich, of course. It's then off to see grannies, grandpas, uncles, aunts, cousins and so forth on the first two days of the new year. On the third day, refrain from going out and socialising, presumably because you'll be frazzled and grumpy having to be nice to so many relatives the first two days.
Eat Lots of Lucky Food
Chinese New Year is no time to be dieting, as it's traditional for households to prepare copious amounts of food, some of which was made to please the hungry beast "Nian," in order that it may fill up without having to resort to eating you. Beginning on New Year's Eve, the list of things you must gorge on includes fish, chicken, roast pork, moss, rice cake, dumplings, uncut noodles and a heap of other dishes -- many of which are an acquired taste -- that are supposed to make you very wealthy indeed, if you don't pass out from food coma first.
Here's to money, money, money and big bouncing babies! Happy Year of the Dragon!
Off to Asia soon? Check out LUXE City Guides, the pocket travel guides for the busy traveler.
Unforgettable fireworks display in Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong. Photo: Courtesy of the Hong Kong Tourism Board
Fireworks overlooking the Hong Kong skyline. Photo: Courtesy of Hong Kong Tourism Board
Chinese New Year is no time to be dieting! In Hong Kong, you can enjoy traditional dishes such as Steamed Fresh Flowery Crab with Aged Shaoxing Wine & Fragrant Chicken Oil, as featured above from The Chairman Restaurant. "Locavore slow food in an intimate, chandeliered bi-level." -- LUXE City Guides Photo: Courtesy of The Chairman
Lung King Heen at Four Seasons Hong Kong is the only three-Michelin-star Cantonese restaurant in the world. And this year it offers special Lunar New Year puddings to order, including the delicious Abalone Turnip Pudding with Conpoy among many other delectable treats. Photo: Courtesy of Four Seasons Hong Kong
Lunar New Year Pudding with Organic Cane Sugar and Coconut Juice. Lung King Heen, Four Seasons Hong Kong "Big Ticket, triple-Mich-starred cuisine given a mod twist, and wide angle harbour panoramas." -- LUXE City Guides Photo: Courtesy of the Four Seasons Hong Kong
Scrambled Egg White with Crab Meat, Birds Nest and Topped with Olive Seed. T'ang Court, The Langham Hong Kong. "Its delectable, meticulous Sino fare shouldn't be missed" -- LUXE City Guides Photo: Courtesy of The Langham Hotel Hong Kong
Stewed Sliced Abalone with Seasonal Vegetables. Offered as part of the Chinese New Year Festivities at the T'ang Court, The Langham Hotel, Hong Kong. Photo: Courtesy of The Langham Hotel Hong Kong
The Dragon Dance is part of the Chinese New Year Tradition. Photo: Courtesy of Hong Kong Tourism Board
Chinese New Year Decorations in Hong Kong. Photo: LUXE City Guides
Stock up on crisp bank notes and stuff them into red "lai see" packets to give out to those you care for. Photo: LUXE City Guides
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