The year of the fire monkey starts next week as the new lunar calendar for 2016 begins with celebrations around New Zealand and the world.

UCOL culinary students Hoang Huy Le from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam with Billy Zhen and James Zhan from Guangzhou City in China will be celebrating kiwi style this year.

"I'm going to Wellington for the lantern festival celebration there on the 13th of February," said Billy.

James and Huy will be staying in Whanganui to have celebrations with friends and family here and although they will be celebrating on the same dates, their rituals are slightly different.


Where the Chinese celebrate the first day of the new year by eating dumplings, Huy said the traditional food in his country is soup.

"We eat a special soup to cleanse our palate for the new year," he said.

Each year of the Chinese zodiac is represented by a different animal and people born in that year are said to share some traits with that animal.

The animals also represent a different element every 12 years and 2016 is the year of the fire or red monkey.

Huy was born in a monkey year although he said he is not mischievous as monkey people are reputed to be.

Chinese New Year celebrations last for 15 days with each day celebrated by different foods, gifts and rituals and the final day is represented with the lantern festival.

Many New Zealand cities now celebrate the lantern festival each year and the young students said they would like to see one happening in Whanganui.

"I have been living here for four years now with my uncle's family," said James.

"I went to high school here and I really like Whanganui but it would be nice to see this celebration of Chinese culture here."

Associate vocational dean of UCOL Tony Gan said he will be returning to his birth country of Malaysia for two weeks to join the celebrations there.