The earliest Chinese new year celebrations were scheduled to align with certain phases of the sun, moon or zodiacal signs, however the method changed frequently depending on the preferences of the ruling emperor. During the Han Dynasty, from 206 B.C. to 220 A.D., the emperor marked the first day or the first month of the lunar calendar as the official start of the new year.
The Chinese new year always occurs between January 21st and February 20th on the international calendar, with the new year falling on the date of the new moon. Modern celebrations begin during the 12th month, and continue until the sixth day of the new year. Traditionally, the celebration continued until the waxing of the full moon in the middle of the first month.
Each Chinese new year is named for one of the 12 zodiacal signs of the Chinese lunar calendar. The traditions and superstitions surrounding the animals of the Chinese zodiac are complex. For example, 2015 is the year of the goat, and 2016 is the year of the monkey. Chinese astrology assigns certain personality traits to children born during each year. Monkeys are reportedly frank, optimistic and quick-witted, while the goat is calm, creative and thoughtful. Each zodiacal animal has traditional good luck symbols, including special colors, numbers, flowers and directions on the compass.