The transition to the Year of the Rat from the Year of the Pig will begin this weekend, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern kicking off Chinese New Year celebrations on Saturday.

An Auckland astrologer is predicting the year to be one full of energy and opportunities, but warns that the stars point to a year of disasters and turmoil.

Fear not, however, as many restaurants across the city have added "lucky" Chinese New Year food on the menu to bring in good fortune and dispel bad luck.

Master Jacky Luk on drum (centre) with the Hup Jong Mune Lion Dance Troupe will perform at the Federal Street Chinese New Year Festival. Photo / File.
Master Jacky Luk on drum (centre) with the Hup Jong Mune Lion Dance Troupe will perform at the Federal Street Chinese New Year Festival. Photo / File.

Ardern said New Zealand's Chinese communities are among the nation's oldest and largest.

Advertisement

"Over the years, Chinese New Year has become a major celebration that a wide range of New Zealanders participate in," she said.

"The Year of the Rat is all about good fortune, and those born in the Year of the Rat are thought to be industrious, thrifty and diligent."

Ardern, together with Chinese ambassador Wu Xi, will partake in an "eye dotting ceremony" of Chinese lions at the ASB Showgrounds - marking the start of celebrations ahead of the official dates.

This year, the Lunar New Year falls on Saturday, January 25, and will be followed by 15 days of celebrations that include a street festival, community events, firecrackers and fireworks displays.

A four-day lantern festival, which has grown to become the largest cultural event in the country, will bring festivities to a close from February 13-16.

"As countries, there's no doubt that the relationship between New Zealand and China is something that we have continued to respect so that it works well for both of us," Ardern said.

"It goes without saying that our economic ties are very close. China is our largest trading partner, largest source of international students and second largest tourist market."

Cai Shen Ye (God of Fortune) will descend by Skyjump from the Sky Tower on Chinese New Year Day. Photo / File.
Cai Shen Ye (God of Fortune) will descend by Skyjump from the Sky Tower on Chinese New Year Day. Photo / File.

Ardern said the upgrade of the free trade agreement last year signified the importance both countries placed on the economic and people-to-people relationship.

Advertisement

"Enjoy the upcoming celebrations, and I wish you a successful and prosperous Year of the Rat, as we continue to build a relationship that is full of good fortune," Ardern added.

Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, is regarded by the Chinese as their most important festival, and those celebrating in Auckland will have a long weekend - because of the Auckland Anniversary holiday on the Monday.

The rat is the smallest of the animals in the Chinese zodiac, and according to Chinese mythology, it hitched a ride on the ox and sneakily jumped to cross the finish line to become the first animal of the 12-year cycle.

Feng shui master Jojo Zhou says the Year of the Rat will be filled with opportunities. Photo / File
Feng shui master Jojo Zhou says the Year of the Rat will be filled with opportunities. Photo / File

Feng shui master Jojo Zhou said, like the rat and the ox, it will be a good year for business partnerships - if entered with caution.

"The rat year will be one of progression and opportunities, full of energy, and although partnerships will bring success, it is important that people exercise caution," Zhou said.

"It will be a particularly good one for businesses and entrepreneurs in the service, communications, technology and finance industries."

But Zhou said the stars also suggested a year of fire destruction and natural disasters globally.

The annual Auckland Lantern Festival has become the country's largest cultural festival. Photo / File.
The annual Auckland Lantern Festival has become the country's largest cultural festival. Photo / File.

"We have already seen this happening with the Australian bush fires and volcanic eruptions both here in New Zealand as well as in the Philippines, floods in Indonesia ... there will be more to come."

Good news for New Zealand, however, because she said the fortune stars indicated New Zealand will fare relatively better when compared to most other countries.

Zhou said it will be a good year for those born under the pig and dog zodiac sign, but not so if you're a rat, horse, rabbit, sheep or chicken.

The Chinese lunar calendar is based on a 12-year cycle with each year being assigned an animal: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

The Duke of Sussex Prince Harry is born in the Year of the Rat. Photo / File.
The Duke of Sussex Prince Harry is born in the Year of the Rat. Photo / File.

Famous people born in the Year of the Rat include Harry the Duke of Sussex, his father Charles Prince of Wales and Pope Francis.

Ambassador Wu said Chinese New Year was a time for family reunion and cultural reflection.

"The rat symbolises intelligence, vitality and the spirit of pioneering, values which also underline the success of China's relationship with New Zealand," Wu said.

"The China-NZ relationship has maintained a strong momentum over the past year, developing in new areas and bringing tangible benefits to people of both countries. In the coming year, we will continue to deepen mutual political trust, expand pragmatic cooperation and promote people-to-people exchanges."

Lion dance props at E-Pacs in East Tamaki that will be used at performances over Chinese New Year. Photo / File.
Lion dance props at E-Pacs in East Tamaki that will be used at performances over Chinese New Year. Photo / File.

Simon Bridges, Leader of the Opposition and the National Party, said he was looking forward to attending Saturday's event and celebrating New Zealand's "vibrant Chinese community".

"Chinese New Year is always an exciting event and it's important to recognise these occasions that reflect our diverse and multicultural society," Bridges said.

"I wish you all a happy Year of the Rat."

Kai Luey, chairman of the Auckland Chinese Community Centre, said the annual Chinese New Year and Market Day has been held at the ASB Showgrounds since 2002.

"It has now become a highlight of the Auckland summer event calendar with attendance of over 20,000 persons with over 200 market stalls, exotic Asian food and extensive entertainment," he said.

Food plays a major role in Chinese New Year celebrations, and many restaurants across Auckland have special Chinese New Year offerings.

Steamed whole fish which is one of
Steamed whole fish which is one of "lucky" Chinese New Year dishes that Cordis hotel is offering. Photo / Dean Purcell.

The symbolism of Chinese New Year food is based on their Chinese pronunciations or appearance, with fish meaning an increase in prosperity, dumplings and spring rolls representing wealth and noodles for long life and happiness.

Volker Marecek, executive chef at the Cordis, said eight is considered a lucky number for the Chinese and the dishes he will be adding to the hotel's gourmet buffet restaurant Eight aimed at "spreading good luck and prosperity".

These include Peking duck, which represents happiness, health and prosperity when eaten because of its red-gold coloured skin; whole steamed fish; a range of dumplings shaped like ingots, a currency in ancient China; and wok-fried noodles to bring a promise of a long life.

"Chinese New Year is celebrated with a feast of food that symbolises good luck and new beginnings for the year ahead," Marecek said.

"Fish is the most common 'lucky food' to eat as it symbolises an increase in prosperity."

Lunar New Year on Jan 25 will mark the start of the Year of the Rat. Photo / File.
Lunar New Year on Jan 25 will mark the start of the Year of the Rat. Photo / File.

Besides food, other new traditions include not sleeping early on New Year's Eve, not wearing black and steering clear of sharp objects and sweeping on New Year's Day as they could bring bad luck.

From New Year's Eve, a three-day Chinese New Year Festival will run at Federal St in the central city, offering lion dance performances, firecrackers and food and market stalls.

Cai Shen Ye, the God of Fortune, will descend by Skyjump from the Sky Tower on New Year's Day evening and this will be followed by the eye dotting ceremony, lion and dragon dances and firecrackers.

"Thousands of locals and visitors alike are expected to visit SkyCity to bring in Chinese New Year in spectacular style," a SkyCity spokeswoman said.

On New Year's Day also, thousands will gather at Trusts Arena for the Lunar Fest, which will culminate with a 10-minute fireworks display in the evening.

The Auckland Lantern Festival at the Auckland Domain will end Chinese New Year celebrations with a bang, with more fireworks on February 16.

CELEBRATING CHINESE NEW YEAR 2020 IN AUCKLAND

• Chinese New Year Festival and Market Day: Sat Jan 18, 10am-4pm, ASB Showgrounds
• Chinese New Year Reunion and Celebrations: Sun Jan 19, 10am-1pm, E-pacs 12 Nandina Ave.
• SkyCity Chinese New Year celebrations: Jan 24-26, 6-8pm, Plaza underneath the Sky Tower.
• Lunar Fest 2020: Sat Jan 25, Trusts Arena.
• Chinese New Year Federal St Festival: Sat Jan 25, 2-8pm, Federal St.
• Celebrate Chinese New Year: Jan 25-26, 11am-2pm, Westcity Waitakere.
• Whau Chinese New Year Festival: Sat Feb 1, from 7pm, Olympic Park, New Lynn.
• Northcote Chinese & Korean New Year Festival: Sat Feb 1, 11am-4pm, Northcote Centre.
• Howick Chinese New Year: Sat Feb 1, 2-7pm, Botany Town Centre.
• Celebrate Lunar New Year: Sat Feb 1, noon-3pm, Westfield St Lukes.
• Chinese New Year Celebrations: Sat Feb 1, 10am-2pm, Northwest Shopping Centre.
• Auckland Lantern Festival: Feb 13-16, Auckland Domain.

YEAR OF THE RAT

• Starts on Jan 25, 2020 and ends on Feb 11, 2021.
• Rat's characteristics: Resourceful, quick-witted, smart but lacks courage. People born in the Rat year are thought to be diligent but thrifty.
• Best careers for Rats: Broadcaster, writer, musician, politician, lawyer and researcher.
• Rat years: 2020, 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960
• Famous people born in the Rat year: Harry the Duke of Sussex, Charles Prince of Wales, Pope Francis, Jeremy Clarkson, Katy Perry and Scarlett Johansson.

CHINESE NEW YEAR TABOOS

• Giving gifts: Scissors, clocks and pears have a bad meaning in Chinese culture.
• Broom: sweeping on New Year's means your wealth will be swept away too.
• Washing hair: In Chinese hair has the same pronunciation as wealth. Washing your hair on New Year's means washing your good fortunes away.
• Sharp objects: Avoid use of knives and scissors.
• Wearing black: Black clothes are traditionally associated with mourning.