When Catherine Lo started celebrating Chinese New Year in New Zealand, she had to make her own paper lanterns.
Back in the early 1990s, few in Wellington knew much about the two weeks of festivities celebrated by more than a billion people.
But every year, Mrs Lo has decorated her Whitby home in red, bringing good luck and warding off a nasty monster, and has invited friends and family to feast.
Her festivities regularly feature paper dragons and a lion dance, in which the audience is rewarded with prosperity for catching mandarins.
"When we moved to New Zealand, we wanted to start a family here but we wanted to keep our culture," she says.
Twenty-one years after moving to Wellington from Malaysia, she has decked out a home yet again. Now, Chinese New Year is a city-wide event, drawing thousands to performances, markets and parades.
The two weeks of festivities, which began on February 10, culminate this weekend, and Mrs Lo is heavily involved in the celebrations, hosting and interpreting for the headline act, the Shenzhen Song and Dance Ensemble.
Her 18-year-old daughter, Melissa, is performing in the New Clothes for the New Year fashion and dance show tomorrow and her husband and son, David and Edward, have previously performed in the parade.
This year's celebrations, welcoming the Year of the Snake, are not quite as auspicious as last year's for the Year of the Dragon.
Whereas dragon years are considered lucky, the past two snake years have included 2001, the year of the 9/11 attacks, and 1989, when the Chinese army opened fire on protesters at Tiananmen Square.
However, Wellington festival organiser Linda Lim said this time around the snake should be better behaved.
"Because we have a water snake this time, it might be more serene, more peaceful."
Especially for would-be parents: many go to extra efforts to have children in the lucky Year of the Dragon.
New Clothes for the New Year fashion and dance show, tomorrow, 7pm, TSB Bank Arena
Asian markets, Sunday, 10.30am till 4.30pm, TSB Bank Arena
Street parade, Sunday, 2pm, starts from Courtenay Place
Cultural entertainment, Sunday, 3pm till 4.30pm, Frank Kitts Park
Shenzhen Song & Dance Ensemble: Phoenix Dancing Over Oriental Land, Sunday, 7pm, $20 adult/$12.50 child, TSB Bank Arena
Fireworks display, Sunday, 9pm, Wellington waterfront.
- The Dominion Post
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