Sunday is widely dubbed Double Happiness day in the Chinese world -- a rare occasion when the New Year festival, launching the Year of the Tiger, coincides with Valentine's Day.
But leaving aside love and tenderness the Year of the Tiger which follows the Year of the Ox is associated with good luck and with courage, its underlying ethos being fortune favours the brave.
Traditional beliefs about the Chinese zodiac symbol say the coming months will be auspicious and action-packed—and yield a host of leaders, or at least bossy, impassioned personalities.
In Chinese fairytales, the tiger is a magical figure, dethroning the lion as king of the jungle. That translates into the notion that the year of the tiger is a singularly productive one—and that people born during the year have passionate temperaments and leadership acumen.
The Chinese worship the wisdom, power and strength of the tiger. However the forceful nature has its down side since individuals born in the year of the tiger can be very hard-driving and aggressive, so if they're not properly managed, they can be a little rough or abrupt with people because they have so much energy.
But this year also highlights the fate of the tiger. At the last Year of the Tiger, 12 years ago, 6000 of the big cats were in the wild. About half that number runs free today. The largest number in the world is in captivity in the US -- 3000 are kept in Texas alone.
The population in China has dwindled to 50-100 wild tigers. They are close to inevitable extinction, except in zoos -- chiefly because of the loss of their natural habitat.
In the north, massive sums are being invested in China, but more heavily in Russia, to save the Siberian tiger. It is too late for the South China tiger, which has not been seen for 25 years.
China joined an international ban on the trade of tiger products in 1993. This helped push the price so high that huge sums became available for poaching and smuggling. Now there is a lively debate about whether China's once-flourishing tiger farms should be permitted to sell the animal's parts again.
At the final press conference of the old Year of the Ox given by the Foreign Ministry in Beijing, spokesman Ma Zhaoxu entered into the festive spirit, warning as he wished the international journalists a happy new year that in a tiger year, be very careful when asking questions, be cautious at our pressers, otherwise the tiger here might not be very happy with you.
People for whom the Year of the Tiger is special were born in 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962, 1950, 1938 and 1926. The colours associated with them are green and red, and their gems are diamonds.
They include Steve Irwin, Germaine Greer, Queen Elizabeth II, Chuck Berry, Dwight Eisenhower, Dylan Thomas, E. M. Forster, Ho Chi Minh, Hugh Hefner, Karl Marx, Kofi Annan, Ludwig van Beethoven, Marco Polo, Marilyn Monroe, Oscar Wilde and Tom Cruise.