Since the mid 1800s, San Francisco has been ground zero for the most vibrant Chinese New Year celebrations in North America. As a long time haven for immigrants and ex-pats looking to establish a life in West, the growing Chinese population quickly established cultural roots in the city and helped establish the worlds most well known Chinatown outside of Asia. By the 1860’s, community began using the New Year celebration to not expose westerners to their culture, but also incorporate elements of American holiday festivities, such as the parade. As a result, the Chinese New Year Parade was established.
Over time, the celebrations became bigger and bigger, evolving into a festival spanning two weeks and featuring a plethora of fun events. This year marks the Year of the Dog (year 4716 on the lunar calendar), and the city has been hard a work making sure this years celebration goes off without a hitch. Below you will find some of these years events you will not want to miss!
Mini Procession Preview and Ribbon Cutting (Feb. 10th)
The mini procession review is the perfect place to get a sneak-peek at some of the floats that will feature prominently in the upcoming larger parade. This event follows the original parade route used over 150 years ago. Beginning at St. Mary’s Square and ending at the Flower Market Fair’s main stage (on Washington below Grant), the parade concludes with a ceremonial ribbon cutting attended by city official and honored guests (signifying the official opening of the festival). Guests in attendance will enjoy lion dancers, drummers, giant puppets and other performances. Read more here .
Flower Market Fair (Feb. 10th – 11th)
Immediately following the mini parade, guests can enjoy the annual Flower Market Fair , where over 120 vendor booths and concessions showcase an abundance of fresh flowers, fruits and plants while enjoying traditional dance, music and art displays. There is a significant cultural relevance to flowers and fruits, especially surrounding New Years. Oranges and tangerines both symbolize abundant happiness, and tangerines with the leaves left intact represents a strong secure relationship with your partner. Fresh flowers are a staple of Chinese households as they symbolize good fortune. In fact, a flower in bloom on New Years Day is known to be a sign of prosperity in the New Year so having a house filled with fresh, lively flowers is incredibly important and the Flower Market Fair is the place to be to stock up!
The Chinese New Year Parade (Feb 24th)
The crown jewel of the Chinese New Year’s festivities, San Francisco’s parade is the gold standard at which all other Chinese New Year parades are measured. This year’s parade will feature over 100 participants, allowing attendees to enjoy scores of elaborate floats, displays, and performances from groups and organizations across the greater Bay Area. The crowd favorite is always the Golden Dragon, a 268 ft. puppet operated by a team of over 180 men and women that is truly a sight to see. There will also be plenty of fireworks, so make sure to pack earplugs!
Attendee the parade is free of charge, although spectators who wish to purchase tickets to sit in designated bleacher seats along the route may do so. Additionally, the parade will be broadcast live on KTVU Fox 2 or KTSF Channel 26.
Chinatown Community Street Fair (Feb 24th-25th)
As the festival begins to wind down, Chinatown plays host to the Community Street Fair , featuring over 100 different vendors and concessions selling a wide array of art, clothing and gifts to help commemorate the events of the festival. Attendees can enjoy traditional Chinese food and entertainment, while being given the opportunities to take photos with some or the giant dragons and puppets that were featured in the parade.
No matter what you choose to do to help ring in the Chinese New Year, San Francisco has something for everyone in the family to enjoy. Although it may be tough to attend them all, just going to one of the many great events this festival has to offer will give you a front row seat to immerse yourself in authentic Chinese culture.