How to Celebrate the Chinese New Year 2016 in San Francisco and The Bay Area
There is no better time to visit SF's Chinatown then during the Chinese New Year celebrations. Indulge in amazing culture throughout the entirety of January and February during these exciting events.
Chinese New Year does not just limit itself to China. Festivities take place worldwide to celebrate this spiritual and cultural day filled with creativity, passion and love. Just like for any other occasion, the Americans know how to throw a pretty good party and San Francisco is not exception! For longer than any of us can remember San Francisco has been home to the Chinese New Year Parade amongst other related activities. As this continued throughout the years, people from China decided to stay in San Francisco and that is why the celebrations still happen today on a whole new scale. Below is some information about the Chinese New Year Parade you just have to know as well as some handy tips on what else to do during this cultural and fun filled time of year.
Chinese New Year Parade
Of course the main attraction in San Francisco and the Bay Area during the Chinese New Year period is the Chinese New Year Parade. The Chinese New Year itself will take place on February 8, 2016. San Francisco’s Chinese New Year and New Year Parade will welcome the year of the Monkey which is in other words known as the 4714th year on the lunar calendar. To kick off this huge mark in history, San Francisco and its surrounding areas run a number of events leading up to the event as well as after the day in question. Below is some more in depth information about what to expect at the Chinese New Year Parade and some other suggestions on related activities that will be taking place before, after and during the celebration.
About the San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade, California
Although the Chinese New Year has been celebrated in China for over 5,000 years, the Californian Chinese New Year started being celebrated in San Francisco in the 1860’s during the Gold Rush Day. The Chinese New Year in San Francisco is the biggest Asian event in the entirety of North America. Aside from the obvious celebrations in China itself, the San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade is one of the top ten biggest parades in the world. The festivities are made up of a number of activities such as the Chinese New Year Flower Fair, the Chinatown Community Street Fair, the Miss Chinatown USA pageant and coronation ball as well as a number of other smaller activities that we will go into more depth further down the line.
If you are not into big bangs and other loud noises, this may not be the place for you during this period of time. Accompanied by over 600 thousand firecrackers, the Chinese New Year Parade, San Francisco is made up of over 100 units. Of course the units are made up of floats amongst other interesting and intriguing figurines that will be displayed through the streets. The Chinese New Year Parade is truly a work of art. You will not be able to help yourself be in awe of all the gorgeous floats, costumes, makeup, performances and incredible lions, dragons as well as all other sorts of exotic and magical creatures. In addition to its beauty, the parade is an opportunity for communities to come together as schools, marching bands, families and everyone who wants to be involved can be. Performers at the parade include: a variety of musicians, martial arts groups, stilt walkers, fire breathers, lion dancers, acrobats, Miss Chinatown USA herself, her court and of the course the famous Golden Dragon.
The Golden Dragon is somewhat of a tradition. Standing at 268 feet long, the Golden Dragon is known to close the parade every year. It is the grand finally and was made and transported all the way from a small town in China called Foshan. This is not just a normal floating dragon, it is made up of incredible colours, illuminations from head to tail, a six foot long head, decorated with silver pieces and covered in white rabbit fur. The dragon masters in Foshan made this piece of art for the Chinese New Year Parade, San Francisco in twenty nine segments. The Dragon requires over 100 people to support it and although this may sound like a burden to some it is in fact an honour to be part of the finale in the parade.
Although most choose to stand, the Chinese New Year Parade does get very crowded. The event organisers have made bleacher seats available at $30 per person which allows you to take a break and not be squeezed for the entirety of the performance. The parade begins at Second and Market Streets, continues through Union Square and Kearny Street and ends at Jackson Street. The Grand Chinese New Year Parade, San Francisco will take place on Saturday 20 February, 2016 at 5.15pm. If you are not keen on standing throughout the progression you can also watch the parade on KTVU Channel 2.
About the Year of the Monkey
Every Chinese New Year welcomes a new animal sign to the table. The year 2016 is no exception as it welcomes the Year of the Monkey. As with all other star signs the symbol of each animal for each year brings a level of luck or bad luck as well as other expectations. Of course, you will need to speak to a specialist to understand the full extent of the meaning behind the Year of the Monkey however, below are some of the rumours we have heard.
Each year in our lives is related to an animal sign according to a twelve year cycle. The Monkey is the ninth animal in the Chinese Zodiac. Aside from 2016, Monkey years include 1920, 1932, 1944 all the way through until 2028 and so on. If you are born this year or any of the other Monkey years you would be called a Monkey. Although this may not seem to be a compliment, being a Monkey is not all bad. Some of the fun facts about being a Monkey include: your lucky numbers being 4 or 9, your lucky days being the 14th and the 28th of each month, your lucky colours are blue, white as well as gold and your lucky flowers are Chrysanthemum and crape-myrtle.
There a number of theories about being a Monkey. The Chinese New Year Parade, San Francisco experts believe that the Year of the Monkey is a great year for businesses to thrive and that includes sports teams! Some famous people (who are Monkeys of course) that are thought to have been clever, flexible and innovative include: Charles Dickens, Julius Caesar, Diana Ross and so on. This said, you must be warned that the year of the Monkey is thought to be the year of potential health scares especially traffic accidents as well as difficulties in relationships so stay safe!
Other Chinese New Year Celebrations you will not want to miss out on in San Francisco, California
Chinese New Year in San Francisco and the Bay Area does not just stop at the Chinese New Year Parade. There are a number of other activities organised throughout the entire month that just cannot be missed! If you are interested in the culture behind the Chinese Zodiac this may be the best time for you to put your walking shoes on and explore Chinatown, San Francisco, California a little further!
Mini Parade and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, Chinatown
The Mini Parade of Mini Procession is in fact the opening ceremony to the Chinese New Year festivities in San Francisco, California. Although it sounds like a mini version of what we now call the Chinese New Year Parade it is far more than just this. By attending this event you will find yourself diving into what the original Chinese New Year Parade was like over 150 years ago. In addition to this, you will be able to get a sneak preview of what it will be like to come during the real Chinese New Year Parade.
The mini procession preview or mini parade will start at the historic St. Mary’s Square and will continue all the way through the original parade route to Grant Avenue. The mini parade then continues through to the Flower Market Fair main stage on Washington. This procession will basically be a smaller version of the Chinese New Year Parade and will include similar acts such as stilt walkers and lions dancers. The mini parade will take place on Saturday 30 January 2016 from 10.30am.
The reason we have placed the ribbon cutting ceremony with the mini procession is because they work together and take place on the same day. As you may already know, the Chinese New Year Parade, San Francisco is sponsored by Southwest Airlines and the SF Chinese Chamber of Commerce. With this in mind, these two organisation invite guests to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony after the mini parade in order to kick start the festivities with a bang. This is in fact the official opening of the festival and all the main types of acts will be there to help kick off all the festivities.
Chinese New Year Flower Market Fair
The Chinese New Year Flower Market Fair is very far from your usual flower market. You will be able to buy plants, candies, fruit and of course an array of beautiful, exotic flowers. This market is open air and can be found in the heart of Chinatown. If you were going to explore the heart of Chinatown on your visit to San Francisco you may have just found the best time of the year to come. This area of the city comes alive with beautiful colours and smells for all its visitors to enjoy during the Chinese New Year period.
The market will be open for the Chinese New Year on Saturday 30 January from 10am to 8pm and Sunday 31 January from 9am to 6pm. The event has been given so much attention to detail you will not even believe your eyes. The fruits, plants and arrangements have been chosen to coincide with the symbolism that comes with it being the year of the Monkey. For example, oranges and tangerines signify happiness, whilst every authentic, traditional Chinese household will have live blooming plants to symbolise growth. It is really one of the most cultural experiences you will ever have in Chinatown, San Francisco!
Chinatown Community Street Fair
Chinatown Community Street Fair is all about Chinese culture. You will not know where to look as every street and alleyway of San Francisco’s chinatown comes to life. From sights to sounds and taste, all your senses will be lit up by shops selling souvenirs, charms, demonstrating traditional Chinese calligraphy, fortune telling as well as a number of other activities and performances. Performances available to watch include traditional dances, drumming and other instrumental pieces and acrobats. There will be performances available to people of all ages so you do not need to worry about whether or not the activities will be suitable for your children.
The Chinatown Community Street Fair is taking place on the same day as the parade, Saturday 20 February from 10am to 4.30pm. It will then continue through onto Sunday 21 February from 9am to 5pm. The fair is taking place amongst the madness on Grant Avenue, Sacramento, Washington, Jackson, Pacific between Stockton and Kearny.
Miss Chinatown USA Pageant
A little like with Miss America or any other pageant, Miss Chinatown USA is an important event for women wanting to represent the Chinese community throughout the New Year of 2016. What better time to have a Miss China USA Pageant then during the Chinese New Year celebrations! The event has been running for just under 60 years and is a very important and luxurious event to attend.
The Miss China USA Pageant will take place on Saturday 13 February 2016 at 7pm. Held at the luxurious Palace of Fine Arts Theatre on 3301 Lyon Street in the Marina, tickets are for sale at a variety of prices. Of course it completely depends on what you are looking for but tickets range from $35 to $65 and are available for sale at a number of locations throughout San Francisco. Ticket sale locations include: Washington Bakery & Restaurant between 10am and 8pm, East West Bank from 9am to 5pm on Monday through to Thursday, 9am to 6pm on Fridays and 9am to 4pm on Saturdays. They are also available at Ling Ling Chinese Dress from Monday to Wednesday and Friday to Sunday at 10.30am through until 5pm.
San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce/ Southwest Airlines Basketball Jamboree
The San Francisco Chinese chamber of Commerce and Southwest Airlines company are hosting the annual Basketball Jamboree. The event includes six challenging and exciting basketball matches. There are both boys and girls teams with up to three slots for each division. This activity is classified as one of the most important and fun ones in the entirety of the Chinese New Year activities as it brings together communities and schools for an entire day of fun with a touch of competitiveness. All players represent the Greater Chinatown North Beach community and the San Francisco Middle Schools.
The event will take place on Saturday 6 February at 10am. The last match starts at 3pm that day. All the matches will be hosted at the Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center on Mason & Washington Street in San Francisco. The event is well worth a visit with the family as you will really be made to feel part of a beautifully vibrant community. In addition to this, it is completely free so there is no excuse to not pop over and support the teams.
Miss Chinatown USA Pageant and Coronation Ball
So you have had the opportunity to be part of the Miss China USA pageant already and now it is time for the big reveal of who has been elected! It may seem like all the fun was when you got the chance to watch all the contestants but in actual fact this black tie dinner dance ball is meant to be one of the highlights of the entire Chinese New Year festivities! The Coronation Ball is attended by a number of community leaders and is, as you have probably already guessed, a bit of a big deal!
The event will take place on Friday 19 February 2016 at the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco Union Square at 333 O’Farrell Street. The dinner itself starts at 6pm followed by the coronation of both Miss Chinatown USA and her court at 8pm. Once the ceremony is complete, guests are invited to dance the night away from 8.30pm through until midnight. Be warned, tickets are not cheap. Priced at $150 per person, these tickets are well worth the celebration. The event is the perfect balance between class and culture and a must see for all fashion or pageant related fanatics.
CCHP/ Chinatown YMCA Chinese New Year Run
2016 will be the 38th year the YMCA, Chinese New Year run takes place as part of the Chinese New Year celebration events. The Chinatown YMCA Chinese New Year Run is presented by the San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce. The run takes participants through a very scenic route. Starting in Sacramento and Grant, the route then continues through to Chinatown, North Beach, The Embarcadero, Downtown and finally ends on Kearny.
The YMCA Chinese New Year run will take place on February 28, 2016. Registration is already open and is available to anyone willing to give it a shot but be quick because places get taken up very fast. Participants can either sign up to a 5 km or 10 km run. The run/ walk starts at 8 am and participants are welcome to line up from 7.15 am onwards. Anyone wanting to get involved must be aware that the race course is not USA track & field certified. Markers are available throughout the race on the right hand side for runners or walkers to identify how far they have gotten.
The only difference between the 5 kilometre run and and the 10 kilometre run is that participants choosing to take place in the 5K will run the course once whereas those choosing to take place in the 10K will run the course twice. There is a course time limit of two hours as the roads do need to be reopened eventually. Although participants are welcome to walk the 5K instead of running, this option is not available to those opting into the 10K course as it will just take too long.
Registration fees are currently $38 per person however these will go up to $43 per person from February 1, 2016. These prices do not vary according to the distance you choose to run or walk. Participants can have their bib mailed to them however if this is not a good option for you, you are welcome to pick this up as well as your t-shirt at the Chinatown YMCA on Friday 26 and Saturday 27 February from 8am to 7pm as well as on the day of the race from 7am. Those not wearing the official bib on the day of the race will be asked to leave and will not be permitted to cross the finishing line.
An Amazing Opportunity to Explore the Full Potential of Chinatown in San Francisco, California
If you were considering which time of the year to visit the Chinatown of San Francisco, stop there, you have just found the perfect season to visit! There is no better time to explore the full extent of the culture, art, sports, food and community that is Chinatown, San Francisco then during the Chinese New Year festivities. Not only is there so much to see but most of it is free, accessible and just incredibly well organised. So much thought, creativity and heart goes into running these events year upon year there is no way you could ever be disappointed.
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