ALTHOUGH there has hardly been enough time to clear up after Christmas, this weekend is the last opportunity to hit the shops before the Lunar New Year buying frenzy moves into top gear. By now even those who know next to nothing about the festival should have realised we will be heralding in the Year of the Pig at the end of this month, an event which has seen a plethora of porcine paraphernalia swamping shops, from stuffed toys to plastic and ceramic figures. Among the items topping the list of must-haves for the Lunar New Year are red melon seeds, which symbolise luck. Other flashes of red in your shopping basket should include lai see packets. Traditionally containing cash from married friends and relatives to young, single people, these often ornate envelopes have become an almost parallel currency during New Year. They are now given to a far wider range of recipients, including, if you value good vibrations at home, the doorman. Those without a sweet tooth could have a tough time ahead. Candies of all sizes and shapes, but mainly brightly coloured, are de rigeur. Chocolate money 'coins' with a sweet centre are highly prized. Also on the menu are carrot and turnip cakes. And many tables will be groaning under the weight of packets of assorted nuts. With everyone hoping for continued prosperity in the New Year, items symbolising gold in some form or other are highly sought after. Citrus fruits from mandarin oranges to kumquats, both picked and packed as well as live on trees, are favourites. Peach blossoms, which symbolise a fresh start, are also on many shopping lists. And last, but certainly not least, the poster calligraphy of fai chun. Don't worry too much about what it symbolises - just make sure you have one. For many, the Lunar New Year also means new clothes and a new hair style, or at least a trim. And people definitely like to put their best foot forward at this time of the year, so if you are not too down at heel avoid the shoe shops until the second week of next month. Finally, don't worry if you don't manage to pick up everything on the list; just try to get into the spirit of the occasion. And don't worry too much about cost: unlike Christmas the festival won't put a large dent in your bank balance - many of these items cost a few dollars at most. Kung Hei Fatt Choy!