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Chinese New Year Festivities in San Francisco & the Bay Area

Lion Dances, Chinese New Year Parade & More for the Year of the Horse in 2014


Chinese New Year, the biggest holiday of the year for most Chinese throughout the world, is traditionally family-oriented—the time for family members to reunite at home and over-eat symbolic foods, much like Thanksgiving in the US. In the San Francisco Bay Area, the celebration of Chinese New Year is stretched over a few weeks, with fairs, beauty queens, bazaars, lion dances and deafening firecrackers in Chinatown, and museums and other institutions hosting special activities as well. All of it culminates in the San Francisco Chinatown Chinese New Year Parade, a night-time spectacle with a feisty 270-foot-long dragon.

When is Chinese New Year?

Children at Chinese New Year, San Francisco, California, USA
Billy Hustace

Chinese New Year is based on a lunar calendar (according to phases of the moon), so its corresponding date on the Western calendar varies from year to year. In 2014, the Chinese New Year (or “Lunar New Year") begins on January 31, the start of the Chinese Year of the Horse.

The Chinese Zodiac

Twelve animals comprise the Chinese zodiac, and people are believed to have characteristics matching the animal of the year in which they were born. The horse is said to be independent, well-liked, bright, energetic, upbeat, impatient, capable and showy. Some famous folks born in the Year of the Horse: Genghis Khan, Rembrandt, Chopin, Isaac Newton, Theodore Roosevelt, Ella Fitzgerald, Jackie Chan, Jerry Seinfeld, Sandra Day O'Connor, Oprah Winfrey and Paul McCartney. Find out which animal you are here.



Lunar New Year Celebration at SF Botanical Garden

Jan. 25, at 9 am-3 pm
The new year coincides with the peak blooming of magnolias, and the botanical garden has one of the world’s prime collections of Asian magnolias. Take in the floral explosion, plus lion and folk dances, lunar new year stories for kids, and tai chi and swordplay demos.
At San Francisco Botanical Garden, 9th Ave at Lincoln Way, Golden Gate Park. Admission: Free with proof of San Francisco residence; free-$7 for non-residents.

Mini Parade & Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony

Jan. 25, at 10:30 am
The main entree is the Feb. 15 night-time New Year Parade, but this mini-parade appetizer has lion dancers, drummers, stilt walkers and giant puppets strolling down Grant Ave. to Washington St. There, city officials launch San Francisco's Lunar New Year festivities with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. 
Starts at Grant Ave. & California St., San Francisco. Ceremony on stage on Washington St. below Grant Ave. Free.  

Chinese New Year Flower Fair

Jan. 25, at 10 am-8 pm; Jan. 26, at 9 am-6 pm
Stock up on tangerines, oranges, fresh flowers, and candy for the new year, as folk dancers, opera singers, magicians and acrobats entertain.
On Grant Ave., from Clay to Broadway; and on Pacific Ave., Washington and Jackson streets from Kearny to Stockton. Free.

Chinese New Year Day

Jan. 31
Time to welcome the Year of the Horse! By now, the home should be sparkling clean, the cooking done and all bills and debts paid. Wear new clothes, preferably in good-luck-color red. Don't argue, and don’t use knives or sharp objects. Parents and other adults give children hong bao, red envelopes with money inside. Read about other Chinese New Year Day practices and superstitions and symbolic foods to cook and eat. .

Lunar New Year at San Jose Museum of Art

Feb. 1, at 11 am–5 pm
Free admission in honor of the Year of the Horse. Enjoy a traditional lion dance, art-making and cultural performances, along with current exhibits about food and other subjects.
At the San Jose Museum of Art, 110 South Market St., San Jose 95113.

Lunar New Year NightLife

Feb. 6, at 6-10 pm
A lion dance presentation and workshop, a martial arts demo, a classic Chinese mask-changing performance, arts and crafts, tea, fortune cookies and a display of anatomical drawings of horses from the Academy’s archives.
At the California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco 94118. Ages 21+. Admission $10, 12.

Chinese New Year Basketball Jamboree

Feb. 8, at 10 am-4 pm
Middle-school-aged boys and girls play in six games in one day.
At Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center, 1199 Mason St. (at Washington), San Francisco.

Lunar New Year at OACC

Feb. 8, from 11 am
Free activities (11 am-4 pm) are followed by an evening benefit (6-9:30 pm) that includes a reception, dance, taiko, vocal and other musical performances and a dessert bar.
At Oakland Asian Cultural Center, 388 9th St., Oakland 94607. Evening benefit tickets $20-100. 

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