When Friday dawns, Chinese people from all over the world will wake to the first day of a new year.
The Year of the Dog, the eleventh sign in the Chinese zodiac, will begin with families and friends exchanging pockets of luck, feasting on traditional dishes and adorning themselves in anything red.
Warrnambool chef and restaurant owner Andy Zheng said for most Chinese this occasion surpassed all others on the calendar.
“It’s like Christmas,” he said. “We have the red sacks for the gifts, but we have red pockets with money inside to bring good luck.”
While many traditions have changed over the generations, Mr Zheng said what was most important was the colour red.
“In our tradition, if you belong to the year of the animal you have to wear red,” he said. “It brings you better luck for your health.”
From February 16 the city will welcome hundreds of Chinese tourists Mr Zheng said.
The shy owner of Emperor’s House has lived in Warrnambool with wife Lin and their three children since 2000.
He refers to his festive menu as “old style Chinese cooking”.
“We will serve food a little bit different over new year,” he said. “More traditional dishes.
“No sweet and sour pork with too much batter. The taste is more gentle.”
Mr Zheng, who originates from Jiangsu province in southern China, said greater wealth among China’s middle class brought new year festivities into regional areas.
“The younger generation travel more now,” he said. “That is because they earn more. They are getting more rich and enjoying their lives by travelling more. This is different, even from my parents’ generation.”