There’s no better time to be in San Francisco than during the Chinese New Year celebration, and lucky for you, the events, parades, and festivities last from late January until the middle of February. It’s the Year of the Rooster, and more specifically, 2017 is a Fire Rooster Year. In Chinese astrology, each year is associated with an animal sign and an element. People born during a Fire Rooster year (1957 and 2017) are said to be trustworthy, responsible, and strong-willed.
San Francisco has been celebrating Lunar New Year with a parade that dates back to the 1860s. This year’s event will be the evening of February 11 with acrobats, lion dancers, floats, and a 268-foot dragon, kicking off at Second and Market streets. Other events include a flower market fair, January 21st-22nd, and a 5K/10K run-walk on February 19th.
Chinese New Year continues for 15 days and ends with a great Chinese New Year Parade of children with lanterns. The central color scheme of Chinese New Year is red and gold. People celebrate by decorating their homes, offices, buildings, and streets with red lanterns, banners, and other things to bring festivity to their homes. Nowadays, trend-setters also decorate their phones and computer screens with colorful images from Chinese New Year celebrations.
Traditionally, red envelopes or packets (hongbao in Mandrian and lai see in Cantonese) containing money are given to family and friends as Chinese New Year gifts. In recent years, a younger tech-savvy generation has opted to use mobile apps like WeChat red envelope to send gifts electronically.
Where To Eat
The New Year’s Eve dinner is called “reunion dinner,” and is believed to be the most important meal of the year. Big families of several generations gather at round tables and enjoy food and quality time together.
Lucky food items: Fish, dumplings, spring rolls, glutinous rice cakes and sweet rice balls
Want to join in on the festivities? Check out these local restaurants to join in on the celebrations.
- Rice Paper Scissors Luna New Year Brunch @ Wine Kitchen
- When: Sunday, January 29, 2017 @ 10:00AM-3:00PM
- Where: NOPA
- What: Brunch includes spicy lamb dumplings, Chinese and Vietnamese Lunar New Year cake and taro pastries
- When: Friday, January 13 through Saturday, February 11, 2017
- Where: Downtown
- What: Limited Chinese New Year menu showcasing dishes that bring luck, joy and prosperity
- Cost $128 per person
- Chinese New Year with Mister Jiu’s and Friends
- When: Monday, January 30, 2017 @ 5:30PM-8:30PM
- Where: Nob Hill
- What: An eight-course tasting menu to celebrate Chinese New Year, with the help of a few pals: Rupert and Carrie Blease (Lord Stanley), Nick Balla and Cortney Burns (Bar Tartine, Motze), Brett Cooper (Aster), Sarah and Evan Rich (Rich Table), Belinda Leong (B. Patisserie). All proceeds will benefit the Chinese Historical Society of America.
- Cost: $150 per person
What To Do
Saturday, January 28, 2017
- Chinese New Year Day
- Folding Red Envelope Lantern
- When: Saturday, January 28, 2017 @ 10:30AM-12:00PM
- Where: San Francisco Public Library, Merced Branch, Ingleside
- What: Come celebrate the Chinese New Year by creating a decorative lantern out of lucky red envelopes! Space is limited. Please sign up with a Librarian.
- Free Zoo Admission for Roosters: Chinese New Year Celebration & Dance Performances
- When: Saturday, January 28, 2017 @ 11:00AM-3:00PM Where: SF Zoo, Sunset
- What: Enjoy a day of Chinese New Year performances and activities at the zoo. Free admission for those born in the Year of the Rooster (1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, or 2005)
Saturday, February 4, 2017
- San Francisco Symphony’s Chinese New Year Performance
- When: Saturday, February 4, 2017 @ 3:00PM
- Where: Davies Symphony Hall, Hayes Valley
- What: Celebrate the Lunar New Year and the Year of the Rooster with the SF Symphony at this family event that draws on both ancient and contemporary Asian traditions. Arrive at 3pm for the activity-filled Festival Reception with Asian instruments, “lucky” red envelopes, lion dancing, and more. At 4pm, the concert begins and the Symphony showcases its versatility in a diverse concert featuring Eastern and Western repertoire.
Saturday, February 11, 2017
- The Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade
- When: Saturday, February 11, 2017 @ 5:15PM
- Where: Begins at Second and Market Streets, go west on Market to Kearny, then up Post, east on Powell, down Sutter ad back to Kearny, to end at Columbus Ave, Downtown
Sunday, February 19, 2017
- CCHP Chinatown YMCA Chinese New Year Run
- When: Sunday, February 19, 2017
- Where: This scenic route starts at Sacramento and Grant, winds its way through Chinatown, North Beach, the Embarcadero, Downtown and finishes on Kearny between California and Sacramento, North Beach
- What: In its 39th year, the Chinese New Year 5K/10K Run is an annual fundraiser benefitting Chinatown YMCA Physical Education Program and Community Center, which serves 1,600 youth and their families in Chinatown. The event expects 1,700 participants and 250 volunteers.
Be sure to make your plans early, especially for the parade. Hundreds of thousands are expected to pack the streets all along the parade route hours before and it’s set to begin at 5:15 pm. San Francisco’s Chinese New Year Parade has been named one of the top ten Parades in the world by the International Festivals & Events Association, so don’t miss it!