By Kate Madley

This Sunday (February 10th), worldwide celebrations begin as China welcomes the New Year and with it, the year of the snake.

The occasion is marked internationally by the Chinese diaspora, and those businesses looking to capitalise on the much-celebrated Lunar New Year.

Traditionally, Chinese New Year is a time spent with family, exchanging gifts and red envelopes of money. Modern day celebrations are somewhat more elaborate, with retailers cashing in on zodiac-themed merchandise and luxury offerings.

The year of snake is thought to represent a year of steadfast and steady progress. To mark the occasion, Mercedes-Benz Smart Car has designed a serpentine, limited edition vehicle of which only 666 were made.

In London’s Heathrow airport, mainland Chinese visitors make up less than 1% of total travellers to pass through the airport, but account for approximately 25% of overall luxury spending at the airport. This New Year, Heathrow is hosting numerous activities such as music performances, dragon dancing, food sampling and paper-cutting classes.

According to consulting firm, Bain and Co., in 2012 Chinese shoppers became the largest group of luxury consumers in the world, overtaking American and Japanese consumers.

The holiday marks Asia’s biggest shopping season, but is also one of the busiest periods in the year for businesses across China.

If consumers aren’t spending at home, they are spending abroad. The Tourism Council of Thailand expects the number of tourist arrivals from China and Hong Kong to reach 100,000 during Chinese New Year, generating 4.2bn baht.

Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, is the most important and longest celebration in the Chinese calendar. It begins on the day of the new moon, the first day of the month according to the Chinese calendar, and concludes 15 days later with the Lantern Festival.