It is the Chinese Lunar New Year 4710, which welcomes the Year of the Dragon and ends the Year of the Hare.  The 2012 Chinese New Year Parade through San Francisco celebrates happiness, prosperity, sincerity, togetherness, rebirth and fertility. San Franciscans can expect to see much more than the famed Gum Lung, a 250-foot dragon carried by over 100 men from a martial arts group, during this year’s festivities.  Celebrations actually start in January with February events all over San Francisco in places such as the zoo, the botanical garden, Davies Symphony Hall, the theater at the Palace of Fine Arts and of course, in Chinatown.

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San Francisco Chinese New Year Festival & Parade

Saturday, January 14, 2012 – February 19, 2012
Chinese Chamber of Commerce
730 Sacramento Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 986-1370 or (415) 982-3071

Chinese New Year Flower Market Fair & Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Booths and concessions will be located on Grant Avenue, from Broadway to Clay Street, and on Pacific Avenue, from Stockton to Kearny Street,  as well as Jackson Street between Stockton and Kearny.  The main stage is on Washington at Grant.

The Flower Market Fair is for those who wish to have happiness and fertility in the New Year. The market sells the symbolic fruits, flowers and candies necessary in the traditional Chinese household.  The fair offers live entertainment such as lion dancing, martial arts and Chinese opera.  The flower market and fair offers the blooming plants and flowers for a traditional Chinese household, symbolizing rebirth and new growth for the 2012.

At the fair, visitors are sure to find tangerines with the leaves intact, as they represent one’s relationship will remain secure.  Oranges and tangerines symbolize abundant happiness while tangerines mean the growth of a family for newlyweds.  The Chinese serve “happiness trays” with the candies grouped in eight or nine indicating longevity and prosperity, so those two concepts are linked.  Guests may choose candied melon for growth and good health; red melon seeds for joy, happiness, truth, many sons and sincerity; candied coconut to encourage togetherness; and lotus seeds representing fertility.  We are what we eat.

Mini-Parade Preview & Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
St. Mary’s Square to the main stage, Washington Street below Grant
Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 10:30 a.m.
The mini-parade gives a preview of the Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade and concludes with city dignitaries opening the festival.  Visitors may take pictures with Chinese dieties at the fair, also visited by giant costumed Chinese puppets and lion dancers.

Chinese New Year Basketball Jamboree
Saturday, February 4, 2012 at 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Francisco Middle School Gym in the Annex Building
2190 Powell St.
San Francisco, CA
(415) 291-7900
Price: Free admission but donations appreciated
Contact Kenny Lee at
If you have some team spirit for the New Year, Basketball Jamboree boys and girls compete in six games with 60 players.

Miss Chinatown U.S.A. Pageant
Saturday, February 4, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.
Palace of Fine Arts Theater
3301 Lyon St. @ Bay
San Francisco, CA
Price: $35, $45, $65
The Miss Chinatown U.S.A. Pageant brings young women from around the United States to San Francisco.  Ladies have been competing for the crown for 55 years. The newly-crowned Miss Chinatown U.S.A. will grace a special float in the Chinese parade.

Harrah’s Miss Chinatown U.S.A. Coronation Ball
Friday, February 10, 2012 at 6 p.m. – Midnight
San Francisco Hilton & Towers
333 O’Farrell St.,
San Francisco, CA
(415) 982-3000
Price: $120
If you feel like dressing up and mingling with other beautiful people, The Coronation Ball is a black tie dinner dance with many community leaders.

(Photo by John G. Mabanglo/AFP/Getty Images)

The Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade 
Saturday, February 11 Stepping off at 5:15 p.m. from 2nd and Market Streets
(415) 986-1370
Bleacher seats are available.
The Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade route starts at Market Street and Second, turns up Geary at Third Street, Geary to Powell then turns back along Post, parading through Chinatown on Kearny Street until the parade ends at Columbus.  Chinese immigrants who came to San Francisco to work in the mines and on the railroad began the event in 1849, after San Francisco’s (Yerba Buena’s) population grew to 50,000 from 549 two years prior.  The original parade marched along Grant and Kearny driving away evil spirits with lanterns, drums and firecrackers and their native China had no such event.

Chinatown Community Street Fair
Saturday, February 11, 2012, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Sunday, February 12, 2011, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Grant Avenue from California to Broadway; Pacific Avenue from Kearny to Stockton; Washington & Jackson Street from Kearny to Stockton
Community Fair kite-making will heighten your spirits while you also watching Chinese acrobatics or for the more sedate, the art of calligraphy.  The community fair offers these Chinese arts along with dance and music.

34th Annual Chinatown YMCA 10K/5K/Walk
Sunday, February 19, 2012 at 8 a.m.
Sacramento and Grant Streets
(415) 576-9622
If you want some muscle-powered exhilaration and the inspiration of scenic San Francisco, The Chinatown YMCA run/walk goes through Chinatown, North Beach and along The Embarcadero.  The run benefits youth programs in Chinatown and organizers expect two thousand participants.

Ben Fong-Torres (Photo by Chad Buchanan/Getty Images)

Other Chinese Lunar New Year Events In San Francisco

Chinese Historical Society of
965 Clay Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 391-1188
Hours: Tues – Fri: Noon – 5 p.m.; Sat: 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Sun-Mon: Closed
Price: Adults: $5; College Students (with ID) and Seniors: $2 ; Children 6-17: $1; Free for CHSA members and children 5 and under; Free to the public on the first Thursday of every month
Chinese Historical Society hosts talks with prominent Chinese people such as the Bay Area rock writer, Ben Fong-Torres on Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 1 p.m.

San Francisco Botanical Garden Society’s 13th Annual Lunar New Year Celebration & Flower Market
Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
San Francisco County Fair Building
9th and Lincoln Way
(415) 412- 3230
Price: Free
San Francisco Botanical Garden will host a feast with many creative and tasty offerings including a tea room with tea tasting, a stringed instrument and dance performance, lion dancers, a magician, a talk by a Chinatown historian and a puppet show by the historical society.  Attractions include a 20th century bridal carriage, chop carving, scroll painting, Ikebana, the art of Japanese flower arrangement and docent-led tours of the gardens, of which there are 26. Asian treats will be on hand from restaurants and bakeries including an organic dim sum restaurant, a farmers market and a baker of cake pops.

Related: Best Dim Sum In San Francisco

Lunar New Year at the
San Francisco Zoo
Sunday, January 29, 2012 at 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
San Francisco Zoo
1 Zoo Road
San Francisco, CA 94132
(415) 753-7080
Price: Chinese New Year activities free with paid admission to the zoo
The San Francisco Zoo will update for 2012, but last year Red Panda Acrobats and the Chung Ngai Dance Troupes performed.  Zoo visitors saw traditional lion and folk dancing, Chinese yo-yo tricks and contortions with the Chung Ngai Dance Troupe, plus the skills behind the lion dance. Zoo visitors can also take a self-guided Zodiac tour through the zoo, a scavenger hunt to the animals found on the Chinese calendar with a lucky red envelope for finishers.

San Francisco Symphony Chinese New Year Celebration: Concert and Dinner
February 11, 2012 at 3 p.m.
Davies Symphony Hall
201 Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco, CA
(415) 552-8000
Price: $25 to $68

The San Francisco Symphony will perform its annual Chinese New Year Concert and Imperial Dinner on Saturday, February 11, 2012.  Carolyn Kuan conducts at 4 p.m., with a reception before in the lobby including food, desserts and tea, along with children’s arts and crafts, lion dancing and Chinese calligraphy.

Cindy Warner is a freelance writer and a San Francisco Bay Area native. Cindy has covered SF theater and opera for via her bicycle since January 2009. Check out her work on

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