Everything you need to know to attend the San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade
It is the largest parade of its kind outside of Asia, and it attracts thousands of participants each year.
It seems that the New Year only happens twice a year (this is common in the world – there is an Islamic New Year too!). The Chinese New Year (or Spring Festival) is by far the most important holiday in Chinese tradition. You don’t have to go to China to see it either, it can be celebrated right here in San Francisco. If you are visiting China, be sure to visit the Forbidden City (no, it’s not off limits to tourists).
The Chinese began to arrive in San Francisco in droves during the Gold Rush. Each year, San Francisco’s Chinese heritage is celebrated at the San Francisco Chinese New Year Festival and Parade. It lasts for two weeks from the first day of the Chinese New Year (the date varies each year). It also combines elements of another Chinese festival with the lantern festival with the characteristics of the American parade.
Chinese heritage in San Francisco
The Chinese have a long history with San Francisco. In fact, the Chinese have their own special name for San Francisco. It is known as “金山” – or “Jīnshān”, anglicized, it is normally spelled “Gum Shan” or “Gumshan”. It is from the Cantonese language that thousands of southern Chinese came to seek their fortune. It means “Mountain of Gold”.
- First parade: 1851
- Road: Starts on Market Street and ends in Chinatown
Today, it is considered the oldest and largest event of its kind outside of Asia. San Francisco is now home to the largest Chinese population outside of Asia.
Attend this festival and see acrobats, firecrackers, a dancing golden dragon, local bands and the new Miss Chinatown. Some of the highlights include lion dancers, floats, and elementary school groups in costume.
About Chinese New Year / Spring Festival
Chinese New Year has a long history and is interwoven with many myths and customs. It was traditionally a time to honor deities and ancestors (remembering ancestors is important in much of East Asia).
Each year in the Chinese calendar is assigned an animal zodiac sign (there are twelve animal signs in total which change from year to year). Currently (for 2021) the sign is that of an Ox. The animal to come is the Tiger – so 2022 (from February) will be the “Year of the Tiger”. The Tiger is associated with the symbol of the Land Branch.
- 2021: Year of the Ox (February 12, 2021 to January 31, 2022)
- 2022: Year of the Tiger (February 1, 2022 to January 21, 2023)
The other animal signs are the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the goat, the monkey, the rooster, the dog, the pig and the rat.
The Chinese New Year is a period of family reunion and a period of spring cleaning (to sweep away all misfortune and make room for good luck). Gifts are normally given in the form of “red packets” or red paper envelopes containing money. The first week of the festival is mainly devoted to family celebrations and gifts between friends and relatives. The second week is that of public festivities.
- Sponsor: Southwest Airlines
To see the parade, several options are available to you. Bleachers can be purchased for $ 30.00 or simply line up along the parade route in the busy crowd.
- Firecrackers: There are around 600,000 during the parade (bring earplugs)
- Golden dragon: Considered the “grand finale,” it is made in Foshan, China, is 258 feet long, and requires 100 people from the White Crane Martial Arts Group to transport it.
One of the fun activities for kids is the Choy Suns. They will honor Chinatown by distributing thousands of “Lai Sees” to children. These contain a chocolate gold coin – some will even have cash or a gift certificate that can be exchanged for a toy.
- Sun of Choy: The God of Wealth (he blesses everyone he meets with wealth)
Next Parade and Calendar
Chinese parade says of the event (see also their website for more information on the festival, preparations and applications):
“Named one of the top ten parades in the world by the International Festivals & Events Association, the Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco is … the largest parade celebrating the Lunar New Year outside of Asia. “
- Next parade: February 19, 2022
The next 2022 calendar is as follows (see the chinese parade for more information):
- January 29-30: Flower market fair (buying fresh flowers, etc. to take home for the New Year)
- February 1st: Chinese New Year Celebration and Choy Sun Doe
- 12 February : Miss Chinatown Contest and Coronation Ball
- February 19: Basketball Jamboree
- February 19-20: Chinese New Year Parade
- February 19-20: Community Street Fair (Enjoy Chinese folk dance, opera, percussion and more)
China is a very different country from what one might be used to in the West. See here for 20 thoughts every foreigner has visited China for the first time.
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