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Chinese New Year 2013 - The Year of the SnakeThis year the Chinese community worldwide celebrates the year of the snake, year 4711 in the ancient Chinese calendar that runs uninterrupted back into the early years of Chinese civilization. The new year officially begins on February 10th and almost daily events last for two weeks straight until the big Chinatown festival and parade on the 23rd and 24th:
- Miss Chinatown USA Pageant: This nation-wide competition for scholarships and prizes celebrates its 55th year this year. Taking place at the majestic Palace of Fine Arts, the Miss Chinatown Beauty Pageant happens on Saturday February 16th and the Coronation Ball is Friday the 22nd.
- The Chinese New Year Walk/Run This 5k/10k run to raise money for the children's program at the Chinatown YMCA is an annual tradition. Taking place on Sunday, February 17th and taking over the streets of Chinatown, the financial district and North Beach: the run allows same day registration.
- The Chinatown Community Street Fair: On Saturday the 23rd and Sunday the 24th, Grant Avenue and other Chinatown streets will be completely closed down to vehicular traffic and filled with food and craft displays as well as live performances of dance, drumming and martial arts.
- The Chinese New Year Parade: From roughly 5-8pm on Saturday the 23rd, over 100 different participating groups will flood the streets of Chinatown with massive dragon and lion puppets, exploding firecrackers, pageant winners and elaborate floats and displays of all kinds. The parade begins on Market street and marches past Union Square before entering Chinatown and joining the party already in full swing at the Community Street Fair.
History of the San Francisco Chinese New Year Celebration and ParadeThe San Francisco Chinese New Year festival and its famous parade have roots that stretch back to the gold rush days, when the first Chinese immigrants moved to the just budding city. First held in 1858, the parade was a way for the Chinese to show Americans the beauty of their culture and soon became an important way to preserve it in the new world. The many cultural associations and groups that participate in the festival and parade have deep roots in San Francisco's Chinatown and the bay area, much like the krewe's of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
The festival itself stretches back thousands of years to ancient China and its origin is shrouded in myth. The most important festival in the Chinese lunar calendar, the New Year celebration ushers in another zodiacal year, which follow 12 year cycles. Families traditionally gather together for large feasts at this time and exchange red envelopes full of money. It is also traditional to wear red on Chinese New Year, as the color is believed to bring luck, happiness and prosperity in the year ahead.
Chinese New Year is celebrated in many other Asian countries besides China, including Singapore, the Philippines and places where large Chinese communities exist like Vancouver and London. San Francisco however, not only host the oldest and the largest of these celebrations outside of Asia, but it is also home to the most picturesque Chinatown of them all.