Lunar New Year Festivities Abound

More than Chinese New Year: For the next two weeks, there are plenty of celebrations around the Bay Area to enjoy.


Happy New Year!

We used to only call it "Chinese New Year," because the earliest celebrations going back nearly to the Gold Rush were by Chinese. But the new year (according to the lunar calendar) is celebrated by Koreans, Vietnamese and Hmong as well.

Since Feb. 10, it's Year of the Snake in the Chinese zodiac, and Vietnamese also observe the snake year.

No matter whether you call it—Seolnal, Tet, Sun Neen, Xin Nian, or just the New Year, the day means a big, celebratory feast, new clothes and holding off any churlish talk in order to set the tone for the entire year ahead. New Year's day is always set aside for family. Then, in the days following, the visiting of friends and relatives, and the public celebrations begin.

Nowadays, there are so many groups and only so many weekends for public events, the lunar new year celebrations have stretched out bookend the actual day. It can be a little tough, jockeying for a time and a date within the new year period. Some hold an event on the actual day itself, some a week ahead, and traditionally, the weeks after the holiday. 

The oldest—the San Francisco Chinese New Year celebration—always has the parade on the second Saturday after the New Year. Oakland Chinatown is convenng its smaller celebration the second weekend. Flower markets and Hoi Tet, the San Jose Vietnamese celebration, was held last weekend at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds.  

Here's a highlight of events by date around the Bay:


Saturday, Feb. 23:

The City of Redwood City is hosting its 3rd Annual Lunar New Year Festival in
Courthouse Square & San Mateo County History Museum (Free Museum Admission this day.) The celebration will feature lion dancers, red panda acrobats, martial arts, kids arts & zodiac themed crafts, food, inflatable Playland and more! 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Chinatown Community Fair takes place the entire weekend, Feb. 23-24. Wander the length and breadth of San Francisco Chinatown and partake. There's calligraphy, fortune telling and lion dancing. Families can pose next to the dragon, and giant puppets. The day time activities listed here and right below are a great way to get in the swing of things before the night-time parade.

Chinese Historical Society of America Celebrates the Year of the Snake: This gem of a museum opens its doors for a full day of events, including a full day of family activities featuring new exhibitions Hats Off! and Creative Spaces; tour of Frank Wong's Miniatures; Dragon Dance by the CHSA Museum Dragon Dance Team; Crafts for Children inspired by Hats Off!; and Concert with Miss Janet the Planet and Uncle Charliwith Songs, Jokes, Puppets and Fun for ages 4 and up. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free Admission (Museum admission is free through the end of February.

Southwest Chinese New Year Parade the granddaddy of them all, one of the few night parades in the country, has a new route this year, because of construction taking place around Union Square.It features lighted floats, lots marching bands from around the country, waving Miss Chinatown contestants, more than a few prides of dancing dragons performing feats of agility, and, of course Gum Loong, the 268-foot long lighted dragon that is the finale.  The parade steps off at 5:15 p.m. 


Sunday, Feb. 24:

Chinatown Community Fair takes place the entire weekend, Feb. 23-24. There's calligraphy, fortune telling and lion dancing. Families can pose next to the dragon, and giant puppets. 

$3 Chinatown Park & Ride - We had to put this here so you could see it. The best parking deal in San Francisco, and particularly for the new year festivities. It operates Saturdays and Sundays, until 10 p.m., park in the Golden Gateway at Drumm and Washington streets in the Financial District and take a free shuttle to Chinatown with validation at participating organizations, including the Chinese Historical Society of America.

Sunday, March 3:

Year of the Snake Lunar New Year at Hakone Gardens - The fifth annual lunar New Year celebration at Hakone, the self-described "oldest Asian estate and gardens in the Western Hemisphere" features Chinese food, lion dances, cultural performances and more are all here for late celebrants who want to get in on the action. $8 admission, adults, $6 seniors, free to children under 4 years old, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 21000 Big Basin Way, Saratoga.

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