Legend says that the monster “Nian” – half dragon, half lion – comes out of hiding on the Lunar New Year and attacks people (especially children). The upshot is that we all get to watch spectacular fireworks displays meant, according to tradition, to scare away the monster.

This Friday, January 31, is the beginning of the Lunar New Year – known to most people as the Chinese New Year. It’s goodbye to the Year of the Snake and hello to The Year of The Horse. Contrary to popular belief, the Lunar New Year is not just one day. The Spring Festival lasts 15 days, starting on January 31 and ending this year on Valentine’s Day. Red envelopes of crisp currency will exchange hands, dragon parades will race through the streets, and around Los Angeles – home to some 600,000 Chinese Americans – large parties will go on late into the night.

Here are a few highlights you won’t want to miss:

Hakkasan Beverly Hills will feature a special Chinese New Year menu from January 31 to February 8. Chef Ho Chee Boon offers up special Cantonese style plates that are sure to draw crowds. On January 31 at 8:30 pm, Hakkasan will also have a traditional lion dance performance.

Secret Chinese Dinner, an under-the-radar meal, is offered by 19 year-old prodigy chef Luther Bob Chen at Xian Wei. Enjoy modern takes on Chinese cuisine inspired by various Chinese regions from Anhui to Xinjiang. (schedule and sign up here).

Santa Monica Place will kick off a six-day celebration of the Chinese New Year on January 31. The celebration will feature the Chinese Dragon Dance, live music entertainment by a Chinese classical musical ensemble using native instruments, Ribbon Dancers, Stilt Walkers, a New Year’s Wishing Tree and much more.

Beverly Hills’s  Year of the Horse Celebration, on Feb. 8 at 4:30 pm, begins with a traditional lion dance, live music, special appearances and other entertainment. The event takes place on North Rodeo Drive between Wilshire Boulevard and Dayton Way. Traditional “Good Fortune” red envelopes with holiday offers and treats will be made available to the public, and even some Beverly Hills hotels are getting in the game, offering Chinese New Year packages with extras like Chinese breakfast, tea, slippers and more.

Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown. And then there’s the granddaddy of them all – the Chinatown celebrations, full of parades, dragons, food stalls, lion dances, and treats for all tastes. On Thursday, January 30, you can experience the exhilaration of 500,000 exploding firecrackers at the Thien Hau Temple. A few days later, the Golden Dragon Parade kicks off February 1 at 1:00pm. This is the highlight of the Lunar New Year celebration in Southern California, and over 80,000 people are expected to line the parade route, with thousands more viewing the telecast. The colorful parade features government officials and celebrities in addition to the many high school bands, drill teams, dragon and lion dancers and other performers.

Click here for the Official Chinatown Year of the Horse announcement and schedule of events.