7 Ways You Can Still Celebrate Chinese Lunar New Year In San Francisco

Jamie Ferrell Jamie Ferrell

7 Ways You Can Still Celebrate Chinese Lunar New Year In San Francisco

Happy Year of the Ox!

The Chinese New Year festival and parade is one of the most iconic events on San Francisco’s cultural calendar. The festival lasts for about 2 weeks following the first day of the Chinese New Year, and it’s been happening since 1851, making it the oldest and largest celebration of this kind outside of Asia.

The festival normally includes two fairs, a beauty pageant, a YMCA run, children’s basketball games, and of course the grand finale: the Chinese New Year parade. It’s sponsored by Southwest Airlines and hosted by the San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

This year, the Chinese Lunar New Year falls on February 12th. However, as has happened to all good things in the era of Covid, most of these incredible events have lamentably been canceled. In their place, you can still celebrate the Year of the Ox with these alternative options!


1. Look for these 11 beautiful ox sculptures.  

Inspired by the SF General Hospital Foundation’s Hearts in San Francisco project, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce will debut the Year of the Ox on Parade. Local artists have been commissioned to create 11 unique life-sized ox sculptures that will be placed around the city from February 3 – March 14. After the celebration, each ox will be auctioned off and the money sent to benefit local Chinatown non-profit organizations.

2. Tune in to the Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade Special

On February 20th, Southwest Airlines will present a special broadcast on KTVU/KTSF at 6pm. They will also broadcast a Facebook Live event just before the special at 4:30pm, where giveaway winners will be announced. Tune in to win round-trip flights to various destinations around the US and Puerto Rico, as well as giveaways to Thunder Valley Casino and Resort. Events will include the reveal of a 3D digital float in honor of Miss Chinatown contestants past and future. 


3. Take a tour through SF’s Chinatown on Zoom

San Francisco’s Chinatown is a vibrant book featuring beautiful photos from award-winning photographer Dick Evans and lucid descriptions from author Kathy Chin Leong. On Thursday, February 11 at 5:30pm, you can meet the authors on Zoom and take a self-guided walking tour through Chinatown while you learn all about its history and cultural significance.



4. Join the Chinatown YMCA‘s Virtual New Year Run

This virtual 5k/10k run will take place on the RunKeeper app, and proceeds will go to benefit various community programs. Participants have between February 12th and March 7th to complete and submit their race. Registration packages include a race t-shirt and a finisher medal. Those born in the Year of the Ox will receive an exclusive pin!


5. See the Southwest Airlines Float Display

Each year, the residents of San Francisco eagerly await the lively parade at the end of Chinatown’s Lunar New Year festival. Of course, this parade can’t happen in 2021, but Southwest Airlines is still going to display a beautiful float this month at Pier 27. Check it out in the Cruise Terminal Plaza between 12pm-8pm on the weekends of February 13-14, and 20-21.

6. Enjoy some incredible Lunar New Year Food:

  • Eight Tables by George Chen: An award-winning luxury home meal kit featuring the finest seasonal options including silken tofu with Dungeness crab, lobster steamed buns, wagyu beef, and more. 
  • R & G Lounge: Fresh, high quality Chinese cuisine including specialties such as baked black cod, honey garlic chicken, Sczehwan pork, and more. 
  • Koi Palace Poon Choi: This amazing Chinese restaurant in Daly City is offering traditional Chinese New Year treasure pots, which come with abalone, fish maw, sea cucumber, prawns in tomato sauce and tofu skin, roasted duck, concubine chicken, and much more.  
  • Palette Tea House: This amazing spot in Ghirardelli Square is known for dim sum, seafood and cocktails. Try their Wagyu fried rice, lobster ha gow with butter sauce, seafood dumplings and bao, and much more. 
  • Yank Sing: Enjoy a dazzling lunar new year box including a variety of delicious dumplings, potstickers, longevity noodles, honey walnut prawns, barbecue pork, and sesame balls.

7. Ring in the new year with these Chinese customs and traditions

The way you celebrate during these days is said to affect your luck for the rest of the year! Be sure to follow these customs to bring you good fortune in the Year of the Ox:

  • Thoroughly clean the house and buy new clothes for the family.
  • Stock up on lucky fruits including oranges, grapes, plums, and kumquats. Lucky flowers include orchids, peonies, and peach blossoms.
  • Put up “spring couplets” on either side of your door to express good wishes for the new year.
  • On the big day (February 12th, 2021), set off firecrackers to drive away bad spirits and bad luck You can also wear your new clothes, give the children money in red envelopes, and give a new year’s greeting to others: the Cantonese “gong xi fa cai” (pronounced gung hey fat choi) or the Mandarin “xin nian kuai le”  (pronounced shin nee-an kwai le)
  • After you ring in the Year of the Ox, don’t clean your house for 2 days so as to preserve the luck you’ve accumulated! Also, don’t eat porridge, break dishes, wear black or white clothing, or borrow and lend money. All of these activities bring bad luck to your new year!


[Featured image: Bady Addas via Unsplash]

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