For many Chinese, the Year of the Tiger will bring economic prowess and global clout, but couples planning to marry are better off waiting until 2011, according to fortune-tellers.
Superstition is still a strong force in China and different beliefs have soared in popularity since the reform and opening up of the 1970s.
The traditional Chinese zodiac is made up of 12 animals, with each year having its own particular characteristics, such as those good for having a baby or starting a business. The tiger brings with it mythical heroic powers, but the coming Chinese New Year is an inauspicious one for marriage.
"If you marry this year, your husband may die earlier," Joyce Lin, a 25-year-old college graduate, told Reuters.
"My parents are not superstitious, so I'm not, but in our opinion it is not a good time for marriage."
People in Anhui province also say "tiger babies" are often too aggressive.
Babies born in the afternoon are called "hungry tigers" and it is believed the children will have problems finding food later in life.
Many younger Chinese choose to follow more mainstream traditions.
Huo Yuan, 20, said she planned to make dumplings with her family on the eve of Spring Festival on Saturday and would avoid cutting her hair. "For one month after the eve, you cannot cut your hair. If you cut it you will die earlier," she said as she shopped with friends in Beijing.
The Year of the Tiger is also expected to usher in an even stronger recovery of the Chinese economy.
"The animal is full of energy and power," Raymond Lo, a Hong Kong-based feng shui master, told Reuters.
"Tiger is the birthplace of fire, it generates optimism in the stock market. We expect the fire will get stronger and the stock market to be quite active in the summer."
But despite a successful Year of the Ox, when China once again achieved economic growth in the face of a global financial slowdown, the nation also faced challenges, including some that must still be addressed in the new year, analysts said.
Increasing employment opportunities for Chinese people, particularly graduates and migrant workers, is arguably the most important task facing the central government.
The country's job markets have slowly recovered following a major slump brought on by the global recession, but creating more work is vital not only to the economy but also to social stability, analysts said.
"Our research shows the despair among college graduates on the fringes of society is growing. They see no future and feel they have no possibility of joining mainstream society," Yu Jianrong, a sociologist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told China Daily.
Migrant workers, due to their low job expectations, are starting to see an increase in opportunities, as are many other sections of society, but graduates are still struggling.
China will produce 6.3 million fresh college graduates this year. There were 6.1 million last year, 87 percent of whom found jobs, according to the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.
A possible rise in inflation is also a great concern, said Hu Xingdou, an economics professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology.
"If the inflation rate cannot be contained below 5 percent, more than just one section of society will be affected," he said. "Disadvantaged groups will be worst hit. Their incomes are only enough to live on and survival will become a problem for them if there is serious inflation."
Xiao Shuwen, 80, a retired teacher in Beijing, said he expects the country to improve its standing on a global stage during the Year of the Tiger.
"Each year gets better and better. We have more trade and prosperity. We try and understand each country's situation, this will be a good year for international dialogue and communication," he said.
China is still at loggerheads with the United States on several issues: US arms sales to Taiwan, plans by Barack Obama to meet the Dalai Lama, and the US president's promise to "get tough" with China on matters of trade and currency. However, healing the damage to Sino-US relations should be a simple problem to solve, according to Fan Jishe, a scholar in US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"With the depth of exchanges in many fields and amount of existing channels of bilateral dialogue, the two countries' ability to manage their conflicts is improving," he said, adding that despite recent arguments, the relationship "will not go back to a stage of distinctive, antagonistic opposition, when the channels of communication were limited."
"To let relations sour is not in the interests of either China, the US or the rest of the world," said Fu Mengzi, assistant president of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.
"At a time when the global economy still faces uncertainty and when issues of terrorism, climate change and regional conflict all require cooperation from both sides, not cooperating will harm both China and the US."
Fan predicted a fresh round of bilateral disagreements on trade protectionism during the mid-term elections in the US. However, he said there is "clear room for cooperation" when it comes to global security, such as at the Global Nuclear Security Summit in the US and the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference this spring.
For the moment, most Chinese are firmly focused on their family celebrations and have been snapping up last-minute bargains for the holidays, including traditional sweets and cakes.
Many Western clothing stores in Beijing and Shanghai put cutout tiger photos over their mannequin's faces, while streets were festooned with tiger emblems.
"Why? It's the Year of the Tiger," said a shop assistant in Beijing.
Yu Chenkang and Reuters contributed to the story