For more than a billion people worldwide, the true start to the year arrives Jan. 31, Chinese New Year. Welcome to the year 4712! With the coming Year of the Horse (the Wooden Horse, to be precise), the Lunar Festival promises an extreme year of adventure and romance, and also chaos and market fluctuations.

Chinese New Year is the kind of holiday we can all get behind: a 15-day celebration centering around food and family, with traditions designed to attract luck and fortune. Nowhere are the festivities more exciting than in Hong Kong, a vibrant East-meets-West city dripping with glamour and rooted in tradition.

With 7 million people crammed onto a landmass one-third the size of Rhode Island, Hong Kong is often thought of as a pulsating urban jungle. Indeed, you'll find a city awash in skyscrapers, Michelin-starred restaurants, dapper British bankers and flashy stores eager to eager to max out your credit card.

But Hong Kong also has tremendous respect for the things that matter most: family, friends, and especially tradition.

It's easy to see why Hong Kong (which last summer marked 16 years since the British handed back control of its colony to China) is so popular with expatriates.

Daily direct flights from Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and New York-JFK on passenger-friendly Cathay Pacific (with an additional non-stop route from Newark starting in March) make the long trip more palatable to Americans (1.1 million Americans visited Hong Kong in 2013 alone). Street signs are all in English, the clearly signed MTR subway system is famously easy to navigate, and, unlike with mainland China, Americans don't need a visa for visits under three months. Space is at a premium, and it's certainly not the world's cheapest city, but there are bargains to be had everywhere in Hong Kong, and the decision to build up rather than out has ensured massive swaths of parks and greenery remain clustered in and around the city. 

On a recent trip Hong Kong was already draped in lucky shades of red and gold, and the flower markets were buzzing with preparations for the Jan. 31 Lunar New Year through the Spring Lantern Festival on Feb. 14. There's no better time to experience the contradictions in this soulful city. Here are a few of the top must-sees and must-dos in Hong Kong during Chinese New Year.