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Chinese New Year in San Francisco

The year of the horse brings many family activities to San Francisco that highlight our Chinese community. Local celebrations kicked off January 25th with a ribbon cutting ceremony by the Mayor and are now in full swing. Here are some activities to help children understand the events and to enjoy the festivities as well as some tips from Karen Eng, spokeswoman for the SWA Chinese New Year Parade:

2013 San Francisco Chinese New Year parade, festival and activities.
2013 San Francisco Chinese New Year parade, festival and activities.
Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade & Festival
2013 Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade & Festival
Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade & Festival

At Home

Make the season festive with traditional red and gold decorations. According to legends, Chinese New Year-also called the Spring Festival and the Lunar New Year-began when a mythical Beast named Nian came on the first day of the New Year to raid the village. The villagers began putting food at their door for Nian to appease him and noticed that he was scared of the color red. They began decorating in red and used firecrackers to scare him off. Eventually Nian was captured by a Taoist Monk but the decorative traditions continue. Red is also the color of good luck and joy while gold symbolizes wealth.

Spark an interest in customs and traditions with beautifully illustrated and well written books. "Chinese New Year for Kids" by Cindy Roberts is a workbook for parents and teachers, written for children from ages 3 to 12 years old, that includes party ideas, lion dances, games and projects.

Community Events

The Chinese Historical Society of America Museum and the Asian Art Museum are offering a variety of activities focused on the Lunar New Year traditions and celebrations at the museums. The Asian Art Museum is also hosting a Chinese Zodiac Display at the Westfield shopping Center in San Francisco on Level 2 through February 16th. The Miss Chinatown USA pageant (February 8th) and Coronation Ball (February 14th) will highlight extraordinary women while a Basketball Jamboree, 5k/10k Run/Walk and Chinese New year Concert by the San Francisco Symphony (February 8th) are all included in the lineup of events.

The Chinese New Year Parade steps off Saturday, February 15, 2014 at 5:20 pm at Second and Market Streets. Parking can be difficult so Bart and muni are recommended. Try to get there as early as possible and make a day of it. Arriving early will allow you the opportunity to enjoy the community fair in Chinatown featuring booths, vendors, and a children’s area on Pacific Avenue as well as a traditional Chinese dinner at one of the restaurants around the parade route. You can find chopstick helpers for kids at one of the many shops along the way.

Firecrackers are a traditional part of festivities so if you have little ones consider bringing ear protection. Prepare them for the loud noises and explain that they do not need to be frightened before heading out. Dress in warm layers and pack an umbrella-the parade goes on regardless of the weather.

Families with kids may want to consider finding a spot in Portsmouth square to view the parade from. There are multiple play structures in the park to keep children entertained while they wait for the parade to start. Karen Eng, spokeswoman for the SWA Chinese New Year parade, points out that "if you stand closer to where the parade begins, then you will be finished earlier as the parade won't end in Chinatown until around 8:45pm. The parade route can be found on our website. Anywhere you stand along the parade route will be crowded but good. Bleacher seats are the way to go. $30 each with a 10% discount if you purchase 10 or more tickets. No one will block your view- it is a very enjoyable way to see the parade."

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