Chinese New Year celebrations are kicked off worldwide from late January to early February. But nowhere outside of Asia is it older, larger, or more extravagant than in San Francisco. Because this Bay Area city is home to one of the largest Chinese communities outside of China, San Francisco residents of every ethnicity honor, embrace, and participate in this 15-day celebration by the thousands.
In fact, there’s so much going on, a handy guide can help you track events around the city.
Since the 1860s, just after the Gold Rush, Chinese New Year festivities throughout San Francisco have abound. Today, nearly every city venue hosts thousands of celebrants young and old. In the weeks leading up to the grand parade, every activity imaginable is well planned and executed. No matter your interest, there’s something for you to enjoy from street fairs and martial arts demos, to the Miss Chinatown USA Pageant and Coronation Ball, to San Francisco Symphony and hip DJ concerts, to traditional music and arts and craft-making at museums.
To get an accurate idea of how huge this annual event is, look at the numbers:
- More than 5,000 performers in 100 parade units
- Approximately 1 million spectators along the parade route and thousands more watching from home
- Millions in major corporate sponsorship from Southwest Airlines and AT&T
Explore Chinese New Year Festivities in San Francisco:
The San Francisco Mayor and other city officials join together to kick off the Chinese New Year season with a mini-parade and ribbon cutting ceremony.
The flower market fair welcomes the Chinese New Year and beginning of spring with fragrant flowers, fresh produce, and living blooming plants to symbolize rebirth and new growth. You can also purchase candy and other home supplies to start the New Year.
The Year of the Snake, 2013, is welcomed with dance, drumming and acrobats from across Asia. A display of ancient Chinese arts, including calligraphy, fortune telling and lion dancing, celebrate Chinese culture. Hosted the same weekend as the grand finale parade, the community street fair is the perfect opportunity to view the giant dragon and other memorable artifacts from the Parade.
For the last 100 years, the Chinatown YMCA has provided support and services to the local community. This year, the community center hosts its 35th-Annual “Chinese New Year Run” to benefit the 1,200-plus youth and their families.
Middle-school aged boyx and girls help celebrate the arrival of The Year of the Snack by playing in six games in one day.
Young women from around the country competed for prizes and scholarships in the annual Miss Chinatown USA pageant. Leah Li from Mercer Island, WA was crowned Miss Chinatown USA 2013.
The Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt gives participants a chance to gather clues and visit Chinatown, North Beach, and Telegraph Hill sites off the beaten path. This even is a great way to learn San Francisco history and culture.
At the end of weeks-long events hosted throughout the city, festivities culminate in the San Francisco Chinatown Chinese New Year Parade. At this world-renowned nighttime event, spectators sit in awe of elaborate floats, marching bands, lion dancers, stilt walkers, ornate costumes, popping firecrackers, beating drums and clanging cymbals. Every year, the highly anticipated show-stopper is the fierce and energetic dancing 268-foot-long dragon carried by more than 100 people.
San Francisco is a city rich in culture and history. In addition to being one of the premier destinations for celebrating one of the most important days in Chinese culture, it’s also an incredible place to put down roots and call home as evidenced by the city’s residents. To find your place in San Francisco, visit californiamoves.com.