San Francisco Chinese New Year Festival and Parade
The San Francisco Chinese New Year Festival and Parade is an annual event in San Francisco. Held for approximately two weeks following the first day of the Chinese New Year, it combines elements of the Chinese Lantern Festival with a typical American parade. First held in 1858, along what are today Grant Avenue and Kearny Street, it is the oldest and largest event of its kind outside of Asia, and the largest Asian cultural event in North America. The parade route begins on Market Street and terminates in Chinatown.
Highlights of the parade include floats, lion dancers, elementary school groups in costume, marching bands, stilt walkers, Chinese acrobats, and a Golden Dragon. Observers can expect to hear at least 600,000 firecrackers, and are advised to bring ear plugs.
The Golden Dragon is one of the highlights of the parade, considered the “Grand Finale” of the parade. It is made in Foshan, China and is 268 feet long, and takes a team of 100 men and women from the martial arts group White Crane to carry it.
During the California Gold Rush, many Chinese immigrants came to San Francisco to work in gold mines and on railroads in search of wealth and a better life. In the 1860s, the Chinese community wanted to share their Chinese culture with others; they blended their traditions with a favorite American tradition -- the parade -- and held a parade with flags, banners, lanterns, drums and firecrackers.
In the 1950s, during the Korean war, a group of Chinese-American leaders, led by W. K. Wong, expanded the parade into the San Francisco Chinese New Year Festival,:1 including art shows, street dances, martial arts, music, and a fashion show. The 1953 parade was led by Korean war veteran, Joe Wong, and featured the Miss Chinatown festival queen and of course the dragon.:29 By 1958, the festival queen had been formally expanded into the pageant of "Miss Chinatown U.S.A".:56 The parade has developed over the decades into one of the grandest nighttime illuminated parades in the US, and one of the largest celebrations of Asian culture outside of Asia. As of 2017 it was considered the largest Asian event in North America, and the largest general market even in Northern California. It was also named as one of the world’s top ten parades.
For several decades, the parade was organized by Chinatown activist Rose Pak, who died in 2016. Pak was know for her outspoken comments about local politicians as they were passing by the central grandstand at Jackson and Kearny streets. As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, Pak's quips "ranged from humorous to mean, but they were almost always pointed and pertinent to Chinatown’s interests".
From 2004 on, Pak barred Falun Gong, a religious movement banned in China, from participating in the parade. The group and others, including San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly, subsequently criticized Pak for allegedly enforcing the will of the Chinese government.
Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Festival and Parade's main event is the parade and also incorporates two fairs, the Chinese New Year Flower Fair and Chinatown Community Street Fair. Miss Chinatown USA is traditionally present at the parade, as is a Golden Dragon which is over 201 feet long and manned inside by over 100 puppeteers. The Golden Dragon and 600,000 firecrackers conclude the parade. Over 100 groups participate in the parade. Other parade events include a Chinatown run and children's basketball games. The parade is televised by KTVU and KTSF. Other San Francisco Community groups such as the Chinatown YMCA, San Francisco Symphony, and Asian Art Museum hold festivities to celebrate the Chinese New Year as well.
Asian Art MuseumEdit
The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco holds special events to celebrate the Chinese New Year. They offer Family Fun Days which include activities such as storytelling, gallery activities, and art projects themed to the year'sChinese zodiac. Families can learn about Chinese symbols, flowers, and plants through activities. The museum provides educational guides for children so that they can learn about the Lunar New Year, zodiac animals, and win prizes after completing the guide. During the museum's Lunar New Year Celebration event, museum-goers can watch schools come to perform Chinese dances and music, martial arts, a lion dance, and Chinese stories. People can create art projects, learn to walk on stilts, and learn a ribbon dance.
California Academy of SciencesEdit
A special lion dance performance by the Jing Mo Athletic Association took place on February 2, 2017.
CCHP Chinatown YMCA Chinese New Year RunEdit
Approximately 1,700 racers and 250 volunteers participate in the annual Chinese New Year 5K and 10K run and walk which is held by the Chinatown YMCA. After the race, participants receive awards, goodies, a T-shirt, refreshments, and can engage in family activities and sponsor booths. An award is given for the best dressed, according to the year's Chinese zodiac. Proceeds support community and wellness programs for youth and teens such as Chinatown YMCA's Community Center and Physical Education Program.
Chinese Historical Society of AmericaEdit
Admission to the Chinese Historical Society of America was free during the day of the annual lunar celebration. Dragon dancing, arts and crafts and other activities celebrating the traditions of the Chinese New Year were held.
Chinese New Year Flower Market FairEdit
The weekend before Chinese New Year Day, a Lunar New Year Fair takes place in San Francisco's Chinatown. Vendors line the streets and sell goods including traditional flowers, plants, fruits and candies which people give as gifts to family and friends or use for house decorations. Throughout the streets, there are traditional Chinese performances, such as magic shows, acrobatics, folk dancing, and opera.
Great happiness is symbolized with fruits such as tangerines and oranges. Tangerines with undamaged leaves symbolize secure relationships, and for newlyweds, symbolizes the beginning of a family with children.
A Chinese candy box, called Tray of Togetherness or Harmony box, is a sectional tray which is used to serve bite-sized treats, such as candied melon, red melon seeds, candied coconut, and lotus seeds to wish guests a sweet new year.
Many Chinese people think it is important to have flowers and plants decorating their homes for the Chinese New Year because they represent growth. Plants that bloom on the day of the Chinese New Year symbolize prosperity for the year.
Chinatown Community Street FairEdit
The two-day fair and its entertainment is planned by the San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce and presents over 80 concessions and booths on the weekend that the Chinese New Year Parade is held. Entertainment includes folk dance, opera,drumming, family photos, giant puppets, lion dances, fine arts demonstrations, calligraphy, lantern-making, and kite-making. About 500,000 people attend the Chinatown Community Street Fair.
Miss Chinatown U.S.A. PageantEdit
The Miss Chinatown U.S.A. Pageant is an annual pageant taking place in San Francisco, where Chinese women from the United States compete to become Miss Chinatown USA, a Chinese community goodwill ambassador, along with winning prizes and scholarships. Miss Chinatown U.S.A. will be crowned with her court at the Caesars Entertainment Miss Chinatown U.S.A. Coronation Ball where a dinner and dance will be held. The show includes quiz questions and competition in the areas of beauty, talent, and fashion. Other winning titles in the pageant are Miss Chinese Chamber of Commerce/First Princess, Miss Talent, Miss San Francisco Chinatown, Second Princess, Third Princess, and Fourth Princess. Beginning in 1953, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce held the first local San Francisco Miss Chinatown Pageant together with the Chinese New Year Festival and once the pageant became more popular, the contest opened up to women throughout the U.S.A.
Presidio Officer's ClubEdit
Families participated in making a pellet drum, used for thousands of years as part of traditional celebrations, using simple materials.
San Francisco Symphony Chinese New Year CelebrationEdit
Each year, the San Francisco Symphony celebrates Chinese New Year with a concert at Davies Symphony Hall. Those who purchase tickets can attend a Festival Reception before the concert at Davies Symphony Hall. This reception includes entertainment such as crafts, arts, lion dancing, calligraphy, food, and tea bars. A Chinese Dragon Dance marks the beginning of the concert and the San Francisco Symphony presents music from Eastern and Western music traditions, and music from Asian composers. After the concert, those who purchased dinner packages can attend the Imperial Dinner held at the Zellerbach Rehearsal Hall on 300 Franklin Street. The Orchestra's musical education programs, from over 75,00 school in the Bay Area, receive the proceeds from the Festival Reception and Imperial Dinner.
SF Beer WeekEdit
Admission to the Society was free during the day of the annual lunar celebration. Dragon dancing, arts and crafts and other activities celebrating the traditions of the Chinese New Year were held. SF Beer Week included a dim sum beer brunch on February 11, 2017.
SF Chinese Chamber of Commerce/Southwest Airlines Basketball JamboreeEdit
Every year about sixty children, three teams of girls and three teams of boys, from San Francisco Middle Schools and Chinatown North Beach community play six basketball games to celebrate Chinese New Year.
There are more than 100 groups who take part in the parade. The judges are located at the parade's end, at Kearny and Columbus Avenue. There, the judges choose float and group participant winners.
- The Yau Kung Moon Kung Fu Association entry won the parade contest for 10 straight years.
- The International School of the Peninsula has entered and won numerous awards for their floats.
- Academy of Art University has won the Most Artistic Float Award every year since 2014.
- In 2017 Cirque du Soleil performed in the parade.
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