Chinese New Year celebration in San Francisco

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January 12, 2018
Photo by Louis Raphael

Everything You Need to Know About the Chinese New Year in San Francisco

On Feb. 16, 2018, San Francisco will welcome the Year of the Dog. Or if you prefer, it’s the year 4716 on the lunar calendar. In San Francisco as in other Chinese population centers, the first days of the Year of the Dog will be celebrated within the immediate family circle. While most of the festivities will be concentrated in Chinatown and San Francisco’s downtown area, there are activities scheduled throughout the city. For more details, check out our handy festival guide to this year’s events.

Year of the Dog

According to lunar new year pros, the Year of the Dog will be a good year for action and should offer new business opportunities and is conducive to festival occasions. It also augors well for more luck in marriages. Just pay attention to all matters dealing with health. Eat healthy, do sports and curb bad habits.

According to several astrological sources, people born in the Year of the Dog (1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006 and 2018)  are objective, constructive and efficient thinkers. They are devoted to their ideals and will comply with majority rules. They appreciate the value of money and power. They can also be secretive and on the downside, can demand unwavering loyalty and obedience from others. Famous individuals born in the Year of the Dog include: Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Winston Churchill, George Gershwin, Jane Goodall, Prince William, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Ellen DeGeneres, Jessica Biel, Kelly Clarkson, LeAnn Rimes, Queen Latifah, Shirley McLaine, Susan Sarandon, Dakota Fanning and Andre Agassi among others.

Dim Sum and Then Some

There is little doubt that Chinese food in America as we know it started in San Francisco in the mid-1800s. The adaption of Chinese cuisine has gone through countless transformations and has produced some of the best restaurants on the West Coast. 

Explore Chinatown and Union Square

Most Chinese New Year activities will be in Chinatown, the oldest and one of the largest of its kind in the United States. The parade will start on Market Street, snaking around downtown with the final point on the parade route in the heart of Chinatown. Join Linda Lee as she navigates this neighborhood on a video tour of this community.

Night Moves

No New Year’s celebration is complete without small aperitifs. Although San Francisco's night scene will be bustling with new spots, don’t forget these essential old school classics that will take you on a trip to the past.

Walking Tours

Chinatown’s rich history is difficult to condense. Luckily, San Francisco City GuidesWok Wiz Tours and All About Chinatown Tours are reliable ways to get educated about this storied neighborhood as you explore with all your senses. Be sure to include a visit to the Chinese Historical Society of America in your plans for a deeper understanding of the community, too.

There Are Dragons. And There Are Lions.

Be sure you know the difference between a dragon and a lion when you’re talking about lunar wildlife. The mascot of the annual Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year parade measures more than 200 feet long and takes a team of more than 100 men and women from martial arts group White Crane to propel the dragon along the parade route. While there are some smaller versions, there’s no mistaking the behemoth that climaxes the parade amid a fusillade of firecrackers. Lions, on the other hand, usually only require two performers – one to handle the head and another for the tail; in most cases, the tail extends about 12 feet.

What’s All the Noise About?

Firecrackers, beating drums, gongs and crashing cymbals drive away evil spirits. Throughout the Chinese New Year celebration and especially on parade night, the festivities will be preceded by a loud outburst of firecrackers. Bring earplugs.

Insider Tips

You can read our full guide on how to best experience the Chinese New Year Parade.


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