The tiger may be the "king of beasts" in the Chinese Zodiac, but it is looking like the Year of the Tiger will be ushered in with a whimper rather than a roar - all thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Major events celebrating the Lunar New Year have been cancelled, including the annual Chinese New Year Market Day where the Prime Minister traditionally launches the festivities.
Organisers of the Auckland Lantern Festival, the only major public event still to run, are keeping their fingers crossed that Omicron won't come to spoil the party.
The Lunar New Year - the Year of the Water Tiger - falls on February 1 this year, and will be observed by those celebrating for 15 days.
Families celebrating the festival will be keeping celebrations either at home or at restaurants, feasting on food they believe will bring in good fortune and dispel bad luck.
The Tiger is a symbol of strength and bravery, and ranks third among the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac.
Famous Tiger people include former prime minister Helen Clark, Marilyn Monroe, Tom Cruise, Richard Branson, Lady Gaga and David Attenborough.
Auckland astrologer and feng shui expert Jojo Zhou is predicting the year to be a challenging one, and some of the struggles that have plagued the current Year of the Ox will be carried over.
"The stars show that diseases will continue to be rife this year, and this will likely mean that Covid will continue to mutate and the flu could make a comeback in the winter," Zhou said.
"Our world will also experience some extreme weather in this year, with high temperatures and storms. Fire disasters will tend to be more frequent than in previous year."
Bur despite the challenges, the year will also present a lot of opportunities according to Zhou.
People born under the Tiger, Monkey, Snake and Pig signs will have little luck this year, Zhou said.
But for Dog and Horse people it will be an "extraordinarily lucky and happy year".
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the past year had been challenging for many, but thanked the Chinese and Asian communities for the role they've played in keeping New Zealand safe.
"Whether through the Covid response, business and innovation, or the many other areas in which they've made a mark, Asian New Zealanders have contributed greatly to Aotearoa in the past year – as they have for well over a hundred years," Ardern said.
"Thank you for your commitment to our pandemic response and for all the valuable ways you enrich our communities."
She said Chinese New Year was a time to give thanks for the health of friends, family and community.
Ardern said the tiger and those born in its year are thought to be ambitious, courageous, generous, and committed to the greater good.
"These qualities are more important now than ever, as we continue to respond to Covid-19," she said.
"I wish you all a healthy, happy new year – and a wonderful celebration with friends and family near and far."
National Party leader Chris Luxon said the Tiger stands for courage, ambition and growth.
"These are all important attributes New Zealand will need in 2022 to get our nation back on track and to remain resilient while we fight the impacts of Covid-19," Luxon said.
"While these are challenging times for many celebrating the Lunar New Year who cannot travel overseas to visit loved ones, I hope that you are all able to enjoy this important occasion with your families and friends here in New Zealand."
Luxon too extended his wishes to all communities celebrating the Lunar New Year.
Food plays a major role in Chinese New Year celebrations, but many restaurants are taking a cautious approach this year due to the pandemic.
Making an appearance on the menu at several restaurants is a dish called pen cai, or poon choi in Cantonese.
The one-pot dish is filled with New Year delicacies like abalone, king prawns, scallops, mushrooms - ingredients that are considered auspicious to consume during the festival.
Jennie Tan of Treasure Kitchen Otahuhu said that pen cai, which is priced at $388 at her restaurant, symbolises wealth and abundance.
"One of the reason we are doing pen cai this year is also because it is something that can be easily done as a takeaway," she said.
Pen cai is also on the festive menu at Malaysian food chain PappaRich for the first time along with yu sheng - or prosperity raw fish salad.
"For the third year in a row, people are likely to miss out on Lunar New Year due to the pandemic," said Steven Loh, PappaRich managing director.
"So this year, PappaRich wants to bring a true taste of Chinese New Year to those who celebrate the festival away from home and introducing the Malaysian Chinese culture."
At SkyCity, the annual God of Fortune Skyjump, Chinese New Year night markets and lion dances in the plaza have been cancelled.
Lion dancing and God of Fortune appearances will only be taking place on the main gaming floor from January 31.
"While this year we can't commit to our traditional plaza activity...we are still finding special ways to celebrate the diversity of Tāmaki Makaurau and our team at SkyCity of Chinese heritage," said chief casino officer Matt Ballesty.
Celebrations will also be kept within its flagship eatery, Eight Restaurant, at Cordis.
Dishes such as Singapore crab, scallops, Peking duck and wood fire chilli beef ribs are being added to the festive buffet spread.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said after it having been twice cancelled due to Covid, he was looking to once again celebrate the city's Chinese communities at the Auckland Lantern Festival.
The festival is New Zealand's largest cultural festival and will this year be held at the ASB Showgrounds from February 10-13.
"The Lantern Festival generally attracts over 100,000 visitors from across the city who come to observe the spectacle of the lanterns and enjoy the cultural performances, the flavours and the craft stalls," Goff said.
"The Lantern Festival and the Chinese New Year provide the opportunity to celebrate Auckland's cultural diversity and richness."