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January 25, 2016
Photo by Knight Lights Photography

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

On Feb. 8, 2016, San Francisco will welcome the Year of the Monkey. Or if you prefer, it’s the year 4714 on the lunar calendar. In San Francisco’s Chinatown as in other Chinese population centers, the first days of the Year of the Monkey will be celebrated within the immediate family circle. Prior to the lunar new year, visitors can help kick off the festivities with a mini-procession on Jan. 30 on Grant Avenue between California Street and Pacific Avenue. That same weekend there will be a Flower Market Fair along Grant Avenue. Oranges, tangerines and other foods associated with abundance and happiness will overflow from grocers' bins. and for the next few weeks here's what you can look forward to.

Chinese New Year Parade

Chinatown will resound with firecrackers and ceremonial lions will romp in the streets. Miss Chinatown USA aspirants will flock here from all over the country to compete for the festival crown.

At 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, on the night of the Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade, a week-long wave of revelry will crest in a glittering display of pageantry. One of the grandest nighttime illuminated parades in the U.S., the parade started in the 1860s and has grown to be one of the largest celebrations of Asian culture outside of Asia. Parade highlights include elaborate floats, lion dancers, folk dancers, costumed elementary school groups, marching bands, stilt walkers, Chinese acrobats and a 268-foot-long Golden Dragon. 

Bleacher seats ($30) are available along segments of the parade route which begins at Second and Market streets, weaves its way around the perimeter of Union Square and then heads north on Kearny Street where it ends at Jackson Street.

Year of the Monkey

According to parade pros, the Year of the Monkey will be a good year for innovation and improvisation. Business should thrive under the monkey's influence. And Bay Area sports teams should be optimistic, too. The monkey's lucky colors are white, blue and gold (Golden State Warriors, take note) and maybe the San Francisco Giants can lock in another World Series championship. Not only is it an even year on western calendars but it's the year 4614 on the lunar calendar. 

People born in the Year of the Monkey (1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004 and 2016) according to several astrological sources are clever, flexible and innovative. Among the celebrated simians are Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Taylor, Julius Caesar, Leonardo da Vinci, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mick Jagger, Diana Ross, Tom Selleck, Jennifer Aniston and Harry Truman.  

Prior to the Miss Chinatown USA competition on Feb. 13, there is a basketball jamboree on Feb. 6, 2016. On parade weekend, there is a two-day Chinese Community Street Fair Feb. 20-21, 2016 on Grant Avenue. On Feb. 28, there will be a 5K/10K Chinatown YMCA Chinese New Year Run. The route wends its way through Chinatown, North Beach, the Embarcadero and downtown.

Insider Tips

You can read our full guide on how to best experience the Chinese New Year Parade and where to find the best food, crafts, and nightlife in Chinatown to ring in the Year of the Monkey.


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