The Chinese New Year celebration begins Monday the 23rd, at the new moon, and lasts until the full moon, February 6th, which is the festival of lanterns. (A day by day account.)
The dragon is the symbol for the coming year. (Specifically the water dragon, part of the 60 year cycle.) But, according to this site, as the animal years/months/days follow the solar calendar the dragon begins on February 4th (the 5th in some years) rather than on the lunar new year. (See below)
Wear red. It's a Chinese good luck color.
Attend the parade and other festivities. January 29th in Chinatown, on H Street NW between 6th and 8th Streets, 2–5 PM. Dragon dance, music and a giant firecracker explosion.
And learn an Asian language (or English). We offer a number of options through Mango:
The first day of the new year festival is usually that of the new moon occurring closest to Feb 4/5. (Actually the 2nd new moon after the winter solstice.) Everything is a bit early this year because there was a new moon on December 24th, just a couple of days after the solstice.
lots of info
And see page 35 of our reference book R 529.3 KELLY Religious Holidays and Calendars. This is one of many, many reference books that are a joy to browse.
Though this is the start-of-spring moon in Asia, it isn't very spring-like here. American names for this moon include Wolf Moon, Snow Moon and Storm Moon.
As with the Jewish calendar, extra lunar months are inserted from time to time in order to keep the Chinese lunar calendar more or less in sync with the solar one.
How do you get the cycle of 60? 12 animals x 5 colors/elements. Actually you also have a base cycle of 10 stems, each color/element combined with a yin or yang rotating with the 12 branch cycle of animals. After 60, not 120 iterations, you return to yang/wood(green)/rat. So every animal always combines with the same gender, the dragon always with yang, the snake (next year) always with yin.
These stem/branch names have also been used to name not just years, but also months, days, hour of the day.
The solar midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox was noted by Europeans as well. Imbolc (Celtic), Candlemas (Christian) and eventually Groundhog Dog were all centered on February 2nd, though the Asian recognition of the point as the day that corresponds to our February 4th is a bit more accurate.