Clockwise: Chinese expats Ziying Zhou, Mingxiang Cao and Na Zhang, Shuwen Cao with his dragon and Lei Hou. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Shuwen Cao is six years old. Over the past few days, he has been super busy.

“I built a LEGO dragon all by myself and I love it,” he told Gulf News.

His mum Na Zhang says Shuwen has also been helping her and her husband Mingxiang Cao decorate their apartment in Jumeirah Lake Towers.

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She said, “It’s a very festive time for us, and we adorn our doors, windows with red coloured paper art and couplets. It is a time when we meet with our friends and relatives, enjoy a feast together and take part in special events and celebrations.”

Chinese New Year
Every year, Dubai and the other emirates host a number of events to celebrate Chinese New Year. Image Credit: Supplied

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“I also get new clothes and red envelopes with money,” added an excited Shuwen, who can’t wait for February 10, the Chinese New Year day.

Elsewhere, another Chinese expat Lei Hou, 25, is preparing to meet with friends, besides bedecking his workplace, a music showroom, for a Chinese New Year concert. “My family is back in China, so I will be celebrating with my friends,” said Hou, who came to Dubai a year and a half ago.

“We plan on treating ourselves to a fancy meal in Abu Dhabi, even as we will reminisce our traditions back home. My mum and dad are both good cooks and they prepare a veritable feast during Chinese New Year. The table would be full of our favourite foods. Watching the Chinese New Year Gala on TV with my family was also customary when I grew up. And yes, I loved putting up a lock with the Chinese character on the main door, to welcome Lady Luck,” he recounted.

20240206 red envelopes, chinese new year
Gifting youngsters with money in red envelopes is a long-cherished tradition during Chinese New Year. Image Credit: Pexels
Fish for Chinese New Year
Dishes made with fish are a must-have during Chinese New Year. Image Credit: Pexels

Year of the Dragon and its significance

With this year being designated as the Year of the Dragon, Chinese expats are doubly excited.

Ziying Zhou, a former banker and etiquette coach, said, “The Year of the Dragon is the most popular one amongst the Chinese. It is believed to be the very best out of the 12 zodiac signs to a point where many Chinese couples plan their life around the calendar in order to have their babies born in the year of the dragon.”

As she pointed out, dragon is a symbol of power, wisdom and prosperity in China. “As the fifth sign in the lunar calendar, the dragon embodies qualities of royalty and luck. In ancient times, the emperors were the only people allowed to wear clothes with dragon imagery. In Chinese mythology, it is believed that dragons have the power to control the weather to bring rain to the land when needed and soar across the sky like a miracle which makes it all the more significant in ancient agricultural society where farming plays a key role. Chinese people even call themselves ‘the descendants of the dragon’.”

Red is considered the lucky colour for Chinese New Year. Image Credit: Supplied

According to her, there are many interesting facts about the 2024 Year of the Dragon.

“The upcoming Chinese New Year in 2024 will be a Wood Dragon Year which indicates calmness and reliability,” she added.

At a personal level, she said, “Ever since I was a kid, the Chinese New Year day has been the ultimate day on the calendar, the day I get to wear the new clothes and spend time with people I love the most and enjoy the most delicious food with the most beautiful decorations and festivities. It’s always filled with lots hope, well wishes, and happiness for the year ahead. Even though I left China almost 20 years ago, this day still holds the most special place in my heart. Dubai knows how to throw a Chinese New Year bash. The shops, streets, all those festive decorations, activities and special menus in the restaurants just make me feel so much more at home.”

According to the expats, Chinese New Year is about family reunion at its core — a time when loved ones, regardless of geographical distance, come together.

The Year of the Dragon is the most popular one amongst the Chinese. Image Credit: Supplied

“Our celebratory feast at home boasts an array of 20-30 delicious dishes which include an assortment of meats, seafood and vegetables and I often find myself struggling to decide what to go for given the abundance of choices. Fish is a must for the Chinese New Year dinner, its pronunciation in Chinese is similar to the word “surplus” which signifies abundance and prosperity in the new year. That’s why you can see me holding a lucky new year mascot with two fish. You can also see me wearing red because it’s the lucky colour for the Chinese New Year,” said Ziying.

“No matter where I am, I always try to make sure to get my dumpling fix for Chinese New Year if I’m not at home with family. And let’s not forget the fireworks and the sea of red decorations everywhere you look during this special time. They are supposed to be warding off the evil spirits,” she added.