Chinese New Year represents luck, prosperity and new beginnings.
Debts are cleared, and houses are cleaned to sweep away bad fortune and welcome good. Round fruits like oranges and apples are displayed to symbolize rounding off the year. Lucky money is given to young people. Families share foods that represent long life. And red, which represents happiness, wealth and longevity, abounds.
Today is the beginning of Chinese New Year, a 15-day celebration rich with tradition and festivities.
2014 is the year of the wooden horse. Children born this year are said to be energetic, intelligent, physically strong and good at communicating.
In Asian cultures, the new year is based on a lunar calendar, which is why the holiday is never held on the same dates. It follows a 12-year cycle, and each of the cycles are represented by animals.
The holiday is one of Las Vegas’ top three annual celebrations, with New Year’s Eve and the Super Bowl, said Brenda Reichert, director of international special events at MGM Resorts.
The company’s high roller banquet at Aria will host nearly 3,000.
The festivity is so prominent, planning for the coming year typically starts soon after a celebration ends, or sometimes even during.
At MGM, Reichert has started taking calls about next year’s custom crystal gifts.
At The Venetian and Palazzo, Floral and Horticulture Director Dana Beatty is beginning to plan next year’s atrium displays while the current ones are still up.
Beatty said she often orders flowers a year ahead so growers across the nation can rope off a section specifically for the hotel-casinos.
Many resorts hire feng shui masters to advise on design. MGM Resorts brings in monks to bless the properties.
The feng shui masters advise on cultural sensitivities and what items will bring the best luck.
White, for example, is a color only used in funerals, Reichert said. Envelopes must never be white.
“We make everything end in eight,” Beatty said.
The Waterfall Atrium of the Palazzo features eight horses that are 18 feet tall.
The display includes a treasure chest filled with decorative coins and jewels. Fifty-eight coins decorate the base of a seat.
Fruits in the garden represent wealth. The chrysanthemum and bamboo are traditional, and others are added for color and richness.
There are 12,000 plants in all of the gardens. Bats, another lucky animal, are displayed with sheep, the horse’s “secret friend” in the Chinese zodiac.
Aria’s banquet is at the MGM Resorts Events Center and orchestrated by an in-house production company that plans and designs events for the resort and private clients. Its off-Strip warehouse holds oversized and reusable props of every theme imaginable.
For the annual banquet, Reichert said she relies on gold and red and always blends styles of the East and West.
This year, the table centerpieces will display 22-inch sugar horse-head sculptures. The menus were created by executive chefs of Blossom at Aria, Jasmine at Bellagio and Pearl at MGM Grand.
Entertainers from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and China present song, dance, music and theater.
But the planning extends beyond the Strip.
Some of the largest, most popular Las Vegas celebrations take place in Chinatown Plaza and beneath the Fremont Street Experience.
On Sunday, Feb. 9, Chinatown Plaza expects 5,000 visitors to join for a Lion Dance, which traditionally kicks off Chinese New Year ceremonies, as well as Japanese Taiko drums, martial arts, acrobatics and food and dances from several cultures.
The Las Vegas branch of Cathay Bank at 6110 Spring Mountain Road will gift lucky money to its customers for the first time. Cathay Bank is the oldest operating financial institution founded by Chinese-Americans.
Each year, the U.S. Department of the Treasury prints dollar bills with serial numbers that start with four numeral eights. Eight is considered to be the luckiest number.
“It’s a nice gesture from the Treasury that most banks aren’t aware of,” said Gorden Phong, general manager of Cathay’s Las Vegas branch.
Cathay also supplies its customers with free red envelopes, so they don’t have to buy them. In Los Angeles, some branches get permits to set off red fireworks, which are accompanied by dances.
People are celebrating Chinese New Year more than ever in the United States, Phong said.
Contact reporter Kristy Totten at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3809. Follow @kristy_tea on Twitter.