What's in store for you?

SO What are you? A rabbit? A snake? Or even a monkey?Tomorrow is Chinese New Year and Ipswich's Asian community is getting ready to celebrate. Today feature writer JAMES MARSTON discovers the customs and festivities that accompany the traditional Chinese New Year.

SO What are you? A rabbit? A snake? Or even a monkey?

Tomorrow is Chinese New Year and Ipswich's Asian community is getting ready to celebrate.

Today feature writer JAMES MARSTON discovers the customs and festivities that accompany the traditional Chinese New Year.

LAST year it was the Year of the Monkey.

This year it is the dog's turn in the spotlight.

Tomorrow the Ipswich Chinese community will be marking the biggest celebration of the year with special food, family visits and traditional entertainments.

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Chi Yiu Woo is originally from Hong Kong. She has lived in Ipswich for five years.

Born in 1976 the Year of the Dragon Miss Woo, 29, works as an accountant.

She said: “The Chinese New Year lasts 15 days but the first day is the most important. It is a family time rather like Christmas. The younger generation greets the older generation wishing them good luck and good health and good fortune.”

On New Year's Day it is tradition not to wash hair because it would wash away good luck for the New Year.

Red clothing is preferred during the celebration and according to Chinese tradition red is considered a bright, happy colour, which will help foster a sunny and bright future.

It is also believed that appearance and attitude during New Year's sets the tone for the rest of the year. Miss Woo said children and unmarried friends, as well as close relatives are given 'lai see', little red packages containing money.

She said: “It is like getting a little bit of pocket money to bring good luck.”

The year you are born brings with it different characteristics.

Miss Woo, of Terry Gardens, Grange Farm, said: “There are 12 different animals and I am a dragon and we are meant to be enthusiastic and mysterious, full of energy and a born leader.”

Currently organising a large multi-cultural event at the New Wolsey Theatre to mark Chinese New Year Miss Woo said she wants the Chinese community to share their new year with the rest of the town.

She said: “We know what you do for New Year and we want to show you what we do. The show will also give the younger members of the Chinese community some sense of what happens back in China.”

Using 71 performers the show on February 5 will include, traditional dance, martial arts, fan dancing, a Thai Chi sword demonstration, and traditional music.

The event is collaboration between the Chinese Cultural Community Forum (CCCF) Suffolk Chinese Cultural Art Group (SCCAG) Suffolk Chinese Family Welfare Association (SCFWA) Felixstowe International College, Kuk Sool Won and the New Wolsey Theatre.

According to tradition the entire house should be cleaned before New Year's Day.

On New Year's Eve custom dictates, all brooms, brushes, dusters, dust pans and other cleaning equipment are put away and there should be no sweeping or dusting on New Year's Day in case good fortune is swept away.

Dominic Lee, 55, has lived in Ipswich for 30 years.

He said: “I am originally from Hong Kong. It is a close community here many people are in the restaurant and take-away business but more and more of the Chinese community are working in professional environments like BT and insurance.”

Mr Lee, of Quebec Drive, Kesgrave, is chairman of the SCCAG. He said the organisation promotes Chinese culture to the wider community as well as the younger members of the Chinese community.

“I think the Chinese community in Suffolk is quite well integrated particularly in the business world. We want to do well here.”

Born in 1950, the Year of the Tiger, the father-of-two said Chinese believe in a large number of different gods.

He said: “It is a modified version of Buddhism. We look at our horoscopes and often only take out the good bits.”

Many associate the New Year with the traditional Chinese Dragon dance.

Mr Lee, a software engineer, said: “The dragon is the most powerful animal. He drives away bad luck and brings good luck in return. He is the holiest animal.”

Mr Lee said he would be going to a Chinese restaurant to celebrate new year.

He said: “We eat carp fish called 'Li'. It brings good luck and the word 'Li' sounds like the Chinese word for profit. It is a lucky fish.”

Mr Lee said the event at the New Wolsey would be the biggest the Chinese New Year celebration Ipswich had ever seen.

John Dent, of Spring Road, Ipswich, has a Chinese girlfriend and is vice president of the CCCA. He is learning Mandarin.

The 29-year-old software designer said: “It is fantastic to get to know a different community and culture. My girlfriend is in China where she works for HSBC.”

How will you celebrate Chinese New Year? What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

For more information and tickets for the Chinese New Year event at The New Wolsey please call 01473 295900.

Based on the lunar year, the Chinese horoscope follows a system of one animal sign a year for a 12-year period.

The Ipswich Chinese community is about 900 people strong but fluctuates. Though there is no Chinese quarter many live in the Kesgrave area.

Weblink www.chinese.astrology.com

Here are The Evening Star's predictions for each sign for your year ahead

DOG (1910, 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006)

KEY TRAITS: Direct, straightforward and can be stubborn. Loyal and trustworthy, but if you're ever badly let down by someone, you rarely forgive or forget.

2006 PREDICTION: "A year of considerable potential for the Dog, but to benefit you need to seize the initiative, draw a line under past disappointments and move ahead.

There will be opportunities to add to your social circle, and for the unattached a romance started during the year can make this a special time."

FAMOUS DOGS: Gary Barlow, Madonna, Prince William

PIG (1911, 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995)

KEY TRAITS: Genial, sincere and trusting, the Pig gets on well with most people. A kind and caring nature with a dislike of discord.

2006 PREDICTION: "This is a positive year with the Pig often enjoying some good fortune, however with many expenses, plans and travel possibilities, you need to manage finances carefully. Socially, some good friendships will be formed over the year, while for the unattached, romance can blossom."

FAMOUS PIGS: Simon Cowell, Sven-Goran Eriksson, Nigella Lawson

RAT (1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996)

KEY TRAITS: Sociable, charming and a good judge of character. The Rat possesses a shrewd mind and is good at spotting opportunities.

2006 PREDICTION: "This will be a busy and often demanding year, and the Rat will need to remain disciplined and well organised. The Rat's financial prospects are encouraging. However, the Dog year requires great care - it is important that the Rat spends time with others and shares any concerns."

FAMOUS RATS: Prince of Wales, Geri Halliwell, Liam Gallagher

OX (1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997)

KEY TRAITS: Strong-willed, determined and resolute, the Ox has a mind of its own and sets about achieving objectives with dogged determination.

2006 PREDICTION: "There will be some good opportunities for the Ox to take on new responsibilities over the year. However, a lot will be expected of you and you will need to remain focused and disciplined. Good travel possibilities, the Ox needs to manage their money well. Make the most of any chances to meet others.”

FAMOUS OXEN: George Clooney, Kate Moss, Wayne Rooney

TIGER (1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998)

KEY TRAITS: Lively, innovative and enterprising. Likes to live life to the full but does not always make the most of their considerable potential.

2006 PREDICTION: "There will be some excellent opportunities for the Tiger to make headway, although you will need to act quickly and remain fairly flexible. Financially, the Tiger would do well to plan ahead as well as monitor their outgoings.”

FAMOUS TIGERS: Tom Cruise, Victoria Beckham, Terry Wogan

RABBIT (1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999)

KEY TRAITS: Appreciates the finer things in life. With their good taste, companionable nature and wide range of interests, the Rabbit knows how to live well.

2006 PREDICTION: "Over the year the Rabbit should make the most of their experience and move their career forward. Work-wise, this is a significant year. There will be excellent chances for the Rabbit to add to their social circle, often as a result of new personal interests or changes at work."

FAMOUS RABBITS: Joss Stone, Gordon Brown, Jamie Oliver

DRAGON (1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000)

KEY TRAITS: Enthusiastic, enterprising and honourable. Can be blunt, forthright and sometimes domineering.

2006 PREDICTION: "Planning carefully and acting with the support of others will lead to more being accomplished. Socially, this will be a promising year and the Dragon will see their social circle widening. A family holiday or trip with friends could be especially appreciated."

FAMOUS DRAGONS: Tom Jones, Sharon Osbourne, Courteney Cox

SNAKE (1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001)

KEY TRAITS: The Snake is blessed with a keen intellect. Has wide interests, an enquiring mind and good judgement.

2006 PREDICTION: "A favourable year for money matters with a possible rise in income. The Snake will have good reason to value the support they receive over the year. It is also important that the Snake spends time with those who are special to them as well as socialising and recreational pursuits."

FAMOUS SNAKES: Tony Blair, Elizabeth Hurley, Brad Pitt.

HORSE (1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002)

KEY TRAITS: Versatile, hardworking and sociable, the Horse makes their mark wherever they go.

2006 PREDICTION: "This will be an expensive year, especially as many Horses will move. Good management and some prudence will help.

The Horse can also look forward to a full and active social life."

FAMOUS HORSES: Sir Paul McCartney, Helena Bonham Carter, Will Young

GOAT (1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003)

KEY TRAITS: The Goat has a warm, friendly and understanding manner and gets on well with most people.

2006 PREDICTION: "This is a demanding year for the Goat and they will face both pressures and problems. The Goat will discover a lot about themselves and prepare the way for the success that awaits in following years.

Spending time with loved ones will help to maintain a good rapport and the Goat should aim to get in contact with those who share similar interests.”

FAMOUS GOATS: Cilla Black, Nicole Kidman, Bill Gates

MONKEY (1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004)

KEY TRAITS: Lively, enterprising and innovative, the Monkey knows how to impress. Has a good sense of fun and relates well to others.

2006 PREDICTION: "This can be a year of change and opportunity. You may like to be your own master, but in 2006 you will fare much better by doing things with others. Despite an often busy lifestyle, make sure time is set aside for sharing with others."

FAMOUS MONKEYS: Jennifer Aniston, Rod Stewart, Kylie Minogue

ROOSTER (1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005)

KEY TRAITS: Meticulous, efficient and commands a great deal of respect.

The Rooster also has a genuine interest in others.

2006 PREDICTION: "The Dog year will be a testing time for the Rooster. They will face pressures and have sometimes complex matters to deal with. The lessons of the year can prove positive and far-reaching. There will also be excellent opportunities for the Rooster to widen their social circle."

FAMOUS ROOSTERS: Beyonce, Catherine Zeta Jones, Stephen Fry

SYMBOLIC FOOD

A whole fish = togetherness, abundance and good fortune

A chicken = prosperity (the chicken must be presented with a head, tail

and feet to symbolise completeness)

A duck = a harmonious marriage

Prawns = happiness, liveliness and laughter

Peaches = immortality

Dried bean curd = fulfilment of wealth and happiness

Noodles should be uncut, as they represent long life.

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