Everything You Need to Know About the Lunar New Year in San Francisco
On Jan. 25, 2020, San Francisco will welcome the Year of the Rat. Or if you prefer, it’s the year 4718 on the lunar calendar. In San Francisco, as in other Chinese population centers, the first days of the Year of the Rat will be celebrated within the immediate family circle. While most of the festivities will be concentrated in Chinatown and San Francisco’s downtown area, there are activities scheduled throughout the city. For more details, check out our handy guide to this year’s events.
Year of the Rat
According to lunar new year pros, the Year of the Rat is one in which many good things can come your way: greater wealth, exciting career changes, and even new love! Just be sure to exercise the better qualities that the rat is known for in Chinese tradition: adaptability, optimism, and intelligence.
According to several astrological sources, people born in the Year of the Rat are cheerful, alert, and optimistic. Famous individuals born in the Year of the Rat include singer Katy Perry, actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, actress Scarlett Johanson, and former American president, John F. Kennedy.
Dim Sum and Then Some
There is little doubt that Chinese food as we know it in America started in San Francisco in the mid-1800s. The adaption of Chinese cuisine has gone through countless transformations and has produced some of the best restaurants on the West Coast. Head to popular places like M.Y. China, China Live, and Palette Tea House for some of the best Chinese cuisine in the city.
Explore Chinatown and Union Square
Most Chinese New Year activities will be in Chinatown, the oldest and one of the largest of its kind in the United States. On Saturday, Feb. 8, the parade will start on Market Street, snaking around downtown with the end of the parade route in the heart of Chinatown.
No New Year’s celebration is complete without nighttime libations. Find the best places to have a drink in Chinatown or any other San Francisco neighborhoods with our guide to the city after hours.
Chinatown’s rich history is difficult to condense. Luckily, San Francisco City Guides, Wok Wiz Tours and All About Chinatown Tours are reliable ways to get educated about this storied neighborhood as you explore with all your senses. Be sure to include a visit to the Chinese Historical Society of America in your plans for a deeper understanding of the community, too. And stop by our Chinatown Visitor Information Center at 625 Kearney St. to learn about more neighborhood activities.
Here Be Dragons (And Lions)
Be sure you know the difference between a dragon and a lion when you’re talking about lunar wildlife. The dragon mascot of the annual Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year parade measures more than 200 feet long and takes a team of more than 100 men and women from martial arts group White Crane to propel along the parade route. While there are some smaller versions, there’s no mistaking the behemoth that climaxes the parade amid a fusillade of firecrackers. Lions, on the other hand, usually only require two performers, one to handle the head and another for the tail. In most cases, the tail extends about 12 feet!
What’s All the Noise About?
Firecrackers, beating drums, gongs and crashing cymbals drive away evil spirits. Throughout the Chinese New Year celebration—and especially on parade night—the festivities will be preceded by a loud outburst of firecrackers. Bring earplugs.