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San Francisco’s Rich Chinese Culture and History Makes Lunar New Year a Special Holiday

Published February 5, 2024

San Francisco welcomes the Year of the Dragon with Lunar New Year celebrations across the city.

Celebrated across South Asian countries, Lunar New Year holds a special place in the heart of San Francisco, where more than a fifth of residents have Chinese roots. With the largest and oldest Chinatown outside of Asia, San Francisco welcomes the Year of the Dragon on February 10th, followed by 15 days of Lunar New Year celebrations, from the Sunset Chinese Cultural District to Golden Gate Park.


Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival and sometimes referred to as Chinese New Year, celebrates the beginning of a new year on the lunisolar calendar. It’s a welcomed time of family, connecting with relatives and honoring ancestors, while decorating the home in red and gold splashes, symbols of luck, and designs featuring the year’s zodiac animal.


The city’s most notable Lunar New Year celebration is set for the weekend of February 24-25, with the Chinese New Year Festival & Parade attracting more than three million spectators and television viewers throughout the United States, Canada, and Asia. One of North America’s few remaining night illuminated parades, the Chinese New Year Parade remains the biggest parade celebrating the Lunar New Year outside of Asia.


Courtesy of California Historical Society


San Francisco’s history of rich Chinese heritage dates back to the mid-19th century, around the time the quiet village of Yerba Buena changed its name and transformed into a city that refused to stop growing, largely due to California’s gold rush. Many who sought their fortune on the coast of Northern California immigrated from China, and members of their evolving community soon held their inaugural annual parade to celebrate and share their culture with their new neighbors in a new land.


Chinese culture has been such an integral part of what makes our city so special, with Lunar New Year now celebrated across San Francisco by people of all backgrounds. That includes Yerba Buena Island’s engaged, supportive community at The Bristol. Residents there recently gathered together to welcome the Year of the Dragon with a festive evening of traditional lion dances, karaoke, and a variety of Chinese and Asian-inspired dishes and drinks at The Bristol’s open-air lobby lounge.




BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-64352318
Chinese Parade: https://chineseparade.com/history/
History Channel: https://www.history.com/topics/immigration/san-francisco-chinatown
National Museum of Asian Art: https://asia.si.edu/whats-on/events/celebrations/lunar-new-year-celebration/
San Francisco Government: https://www.sf.gov/lunar-new-year