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It's the Year of the Dog. The Chinese New Year, that ancient celebration of lights, music, fireworks, dance, costume and food begins on January 29, 2006 with parades and festivals all around the world. Nowhere but China, however, can you feel the exhilaration and passion for Chinese culture felt by the world's largest national population. With low package prices combining hotel, air and festivities, spending this Chinese New Year in China doesn't have to be a Christmas wish. It can be a New Year's reality.

Go Today (tel. 800/227-3235; www.go-today.com) has a special five-night "Chinese New Year's Special" to Hong Kong starting at $849. Departures are for January 24, 25, and 26 with a purchase deadline date of December 1, 2005. The trip includes airfare out of Los Angeles with departures out of San Francisco and Seattle coming to an additional $125 and Chicago at $250. In addition to airfare, the trip includes all accommodations, daily breakfast, all airport transfers in Hong Kong, a one-day Metro pass, and all hotel service charges and taxes. In addition, you'll receive a half-day tour of the city and two tickets to the Hong Kong Chinese New Year's Parade taking place on January 29, 2006. The parade is world famous for its scope, dancers, and colored giant paper dragon floats. Prices are per person based on double occupancy. Hotels include the tourist class BP International House in the busy Tsim Sha Tsui area of the city known for its restaurants and bargain-oriented jewelry shops. The hotel is a short walk to the famous Hong Kong Harbor where cruise ships, ferries, old Chinese sailboats and tankers maneuver throughout the day and night. The skyline, with two buildings by IM Pei, is an architectural wonder.

Discover Hong Kong is offering a tour in conjunction with Northwest World Vacations (tel. 800/800-1504; www.nwaworldvacations.com) that brings you to Hong Kong for the New Year's Celebration for approximately $1,054 with airfare out of Los Angeles. The five-night trip includes round-trip airfare from Northwest, lodging at the New World Renaissance Hotel, four buffet breakfasts, a half-day tour with a sampan boat ride and a trip to Victoria's peak, the top of Hong Kong Island, a VIP ticket with a bleacher seat to the Hong Kong Parade, hotel taxes and service charges and a welcome pack with maps and discount shopping booklets. Dates for the trip are from January 26 to January 31, 2006 with a purchase deadline of January 15, 2006.

Pacific Holidays (tel. 800/355-8025; www.pacificholidaysinc.com) has a nine-day and seven-night "China Primary Tour" that departs on January 27, 2006 from West Coast Unites States' gateways and takes you to Beijing, Xian and Shanghai. You'll arrive in Beijing just in time for the New Year's festivities where revelers crowd the restaurants and bars spilling out into the streets waving flags and wearing colorful costumes adorned by painted faces. The air/land special includes trips to the Great Wall, the Ming tombs, a Peking duck dinner, a visit to the Forbidden City, the Jade Buddha Temple and dumpling dim sum feast. Accommodations are at three-star hotel properties all in centrally located busy shopping and business districts. Cost of the tour starts at $2,095 with a single supplement available for an additional $700.

If you can't get all the way to China, the San Francisco Chinese New Year's Parade (tel. 415/391-9680; www.chineseparade.com/parade/about/about.asp) enjoys a world-renowned reputation. This year it's sponsored by Southwest Airlines. Dating back to the 1860s and the Gold Rush when the first wave of large-scale Chinese immigration hit the United States, the parade contains one of the world's largest floating dragon floats handled by over a 100 martial arts experts who lead the giant float through the streets of San Francisco. The parade, which is labeled as the largest celebration of Asian culture outside of Asia, is scheduled for February 11, 2006 at 6:30 p.m. Bleacher tickets to the parade are not on sale yet, but keep checking back at the above website for further information. Over nine hundred thousand people are scheduled to attend the parade. Surprisingly, Southwest Airlines (tel. 800/435-9792; www.southwest.com) and Southwest Vacations (tel. 800/243-8372; swa.swavacations.com) were not offering any easy-to-identify air or vacation specials to the parade. Perhaps the airline will make San Francisco one of its "Featured Destinations" closer to the parade date.