Celebrating the Lunar New Year
The 3 largest annual events that are celebrated in Las Vegas are New Year Eve, Superbowl and the Lunar New Year. And just like Superbowl, the Chinese New Year never falls on the same date, and the reason why is because the holiday was based on the lunar calendar. This year the Lunar New Year begins on February 8th and we’re celebrating the Year of the Monkey. Typically, the holiday lasts for two weeks and follows a 12-year cycle. Each year is represented by a different animal.
Because this is one of the 3 major holidays where people gamble the most money, casinos make special accommodations for celebrating these events. Such accommodations includes a large traditional ceremony to ward off evil spirits and bring in good fortune, which consist of lion dancers, happy Buddhas, musicians, and a 63-foot animated dragon parading through the casino lobby. Banners with the Lunar New Year greeting “Gung hay fat choy” hang in the lobby and the casinos are decorated with red paper lanterns, citrus trees that have red envelopes dangling from their limbs, and special menu items to honor the occasion.
When putting on these festivals, casinos are acutely aware of Asian gamblers quirks, such as not wanting to be bugged by casino employees while gambling. That means if you’re a dealer, please respect the players wish to be silent and not engage in conversation. Casinos will also allow players to put good luck charms on the table and in the high-limit baccarat areas the lion dancers will throw lettuce as a symbol of luck and prosperity.
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There are many customs and rituals that the casinos need to keep in mind so that they don’t make the same mistakes as they have in the past. A good example of that was in the 90’s, when MGM lost a lot of Asian customers because people refused to walk into the mouth of a lion since that was bad luck. But, just as the Lunar New Year represents new beginnings, Las Vegas was able to start fresh as well.
Now, casinos know not to use envelopes that are white, since the color white is only used for funerals. When a casino gives a player an envelope it’s usually the color red, which represents happiness, wealth and longevity. And there are many traditions to remember during the Lunar New Year. Houses are cleaned in order to sweep away the bad fortune and welcome the good. The orange fruit that you see in the casinos are a symbol of abundance and happiness. Plus, when Asian high-rollers are checked in their room, they’re usually given rooms with the numbers 8, 9 or 6 since these are lucky numbers, 8 being the luckiest number of them all, as opposed to the number 4 which is very unlucky since it sounds so similar the word “Death” in the Chinese language. Because of this, some hotels such as the Mandalay Bay, don’t have any of the 40th floors and the Wynn doesn’t have the 4th floor or any of the 40th floors either, at the Wynn, the floors go from 39 to 50.