Chinese New Year is almost here, and people of Chinese descent everywhere from Shanghai to Seattle are preparing for one of the most important celebrations on the calendar. Every year has a designated animal in accordance with the traditional 12-year Chinese cycle, and 2015 will be the Year of the Goat when it begins on Feb. 19, which is Chinese New Year's Day 2015.

Though the Year of the Horse still has more than a month to go, many Chinese people around the globe will celebrate the new year on Jan. 1. But the real revelry is reserved for Chinese New Year, when fireworks, food and parades are the order of the day.

Chinese New Year is sometimes referred to as Lunar New Year, which allows the holiday to include under its umbrella the celebrations of Koreans and other Asian communities and some Arab groups.

But whatever one chooses to call it, the holiday is of great import to the Chinese, who kick off the festivities on the second new moon after the winter solstice. The two weeks before Chinese New Year's Eve are marked by parties and gatherings, but it is that day that sees family and friends partying late into the night to ring in Lunar New Year Day, or Yuan Dan, the first of 15 days of celebration.

Chinese New Year is rooted in the Chinese lunisolar calendar, which is why Chinese New Year's Day falls on a different date on the Gregorian calendar used in Western cultures.

The holiday is based on an ancient myth that states that villagers in ancient China set red lanterns and food out each year to scare away Nian, a beast that would terrorize children and decimate crops throughout the year. In homage to that heritage, Chinese New Year is marked today by people decorating their homes with good-luck phrases, Chinese art and, of course, red lanterns. Celebrants also buy new clothes and cut their hair in preparation for the event.