A 45m Chinese dragon will mark the start of Chinese New Year celebrations with a bang in Auckland on February 2.
The dragon dance, performed by a troupe of 30 at the Chinese New Year Festival and Market Day at the ASB Showgrounds, will launch Year of the Snake festivities here.
Chinese New Year falls on February 10, a Sunday, but New Zealand Chinese Association secretary Monica Mu said the annual festival would be taking place a week earlier, as New Year's Eve was a time when families would prefer to gather for reunion dinners.
Dragons are believed to bring good luck and snakes are also known as "xiao long", or little dragons, by the Chinese, who believe they are "dragons on earth", Ms Mu explained.
"So it just seems so appropriate that we say goodbye to the dragon and welcome the snake with the dragon dance," she said.
Ms Mu said it was exciting that Chinese New Year celebrations were becoming more mainstream in Auckland, with shopping malls planning Year of the Snake events and city streets decorated with lanterns.
Team member Runfeng Lin, 28, a recent migrant who has been tasked to handle the dragon head, said being able to perform the dragon dance was a "dream come true".
"I grew up in China watching dragon dance performances, and never thought I would one day be performing it in front of a prime minister," Mr Lin said.
Prime Minister John Key will be attending the grand opening of the event, which will include more than 200 stalls, cultural performances, games and martial arts.
Firecrackers will be lit at the base of the Sky Tower on the evening of February 9 and on New Year's Day.
The popular lantern festival, marking the end of the 15-day observation, will run from February 22 to 24 and is expected to draw crowds of more than 100,000.
According to the Chinese zodiac, the snake is the sixth element in a 12-year cycle.
People born in the Year of the Snake are said to be cunning, proud, vain and vicious, and would make excellent scientists, sociologists, analysts and spiritual leaders.
Year of the Snake celebrations
* Chinese New Year Festival and Market Day - Feb 2, 9.30am to 4pm, ASB Showgrounds, Greenlane West.
* WTV Lunar New Year - Feb 2, 3pm to 11pm, Telstra Clear Events Centre, Great South Rd.
* Northcote Chinese and Korean New Year Festival - Feb 8, 5.30 to 9pm, Feb 9, 10am to 3pm, Northcote Centre.
* Celebrations at SkyCity - Feb 9 to 24, SkyCity Federal St.
* New Year Vegetarian Food Fair - Feb 10, 10am-3pm, Fo Guang Shan temple, Stancombe Rd.
* Auckland Museum CNY celebrations - Feb 10, 16, 17 and 24, the Domain, Parnell.
* Lantern Festival - Feb 22 to 24, Albert Park.By Lincoln Tan Email Lincoln