Chase away the year. Welcome the dragon, and with it good luck and fortune.
The commotion and hubbub emanating from Stockton Street and Grant Avenue in Chinatown — and Clement Street, Leland Avenue and anywhere else in San Francisco where a Chinese family can be found — is not simply noise. It’s the heralding of a fresh start, good fortune, and the abandonment of old debts, past grudges and the scaring away of an evil spirit — namely, the past year.
Every flip of the calendar since the Civil War, The City’s Chinese population has painted — or at least dressed and papered — the town red and marked the passage of time with a parade. Hundreds of thousands of spectators and every who’s who in town watch what the Chinese Chamber of Commerce claims is the biggest parade of its kind in the world.
But the Lunar New Year — so named because the beginning of the Chinese New Year follows the cycle of the moon and sun — is more than a parade, more than firecrackers, drum teams, lion dancers, good luck messages displayed in the home and money stuffed in envelopes colored with lucky red.
“Chinese New Year is the biggest and most important holiday to Chinese families,” said Karen Eng, a spokeswoman for the Chinese New Year Parade organizing committee. She added that the holiday is celebrated throughout mainland China, regardless of native province or dialect spoken, and also is observed in other Asian countries, such as Vietnam and Malaysia.
And 2012 is particularly auspicious. Far from the end of the world, it’s the beginning — this is the Year of the Dragon, the flashiest and boldest member of the Chinese zodiac of animals.
“The dragon is the leader of the pack,” Eng said.
It’s not uncommon for families to purposefully have children in these years, as it’s believed the year brings extra good luck with good fortune. Dragon years also are a good time for getting married or starting a family.
And, if anything, it’s family that’s at the core of the Chinese New Year. From the beginning of the two-week celebration to the Lantern Festival on the 15th night, celebrants honor their parents, remember their ancestors and feast with their families.
“Chinese New Year is about getting together with family and loved ones, and wishing for prosperity and auspicion as a joint effort,” said Mabel Teng, executive director of the Chinese Culture Center, who encourages everyone, regardless of race or religion, to visit Chinatown during the two-week fete and observe or take part in celebrations.
“Even if people are not Chinese,” Teng said, “they can get a piece of that spirit and keep it with them.”
Chinese New Year Basketball Jamboree
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Francisco Middle School Gym, 2190 Powell St., S.F.
Info: (415) 291-7900
Miss Chinatown USA Pageant
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Palace of Fine Arts Theater, 3301 Lyon St., S.F.
Tickets: $35 to $65; call Chinese Chamber of Commerce, 982-3000; LingLing Chinese Dress, 63 Walter Lum Place, 981-5608; East West Bank, 900 Kearny St., 397-8988
FEB. 11 and FEB. 12
Chinese New Year Community Street Fair
When: 10 a.m to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 11; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 12
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Chinese Culture Center Auditorium,
750 Kearny St., third floor, S.F.
Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade
When: 5:15 to 8 p.m.
Where: Market and Second streets to Kearny and Jackson streets; bleachers on Kearny Street between Sacramento and California streets and Pine and Bush streets
Cost: Free; $30 for bleacher seats
Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt
When: 4:30 p.m.; check in at 3:30 p.m.
Where: Justin Herman Plaza, foot of Market Street
Info: Details and ticket prices at www.SFTreasureHunts.com or (415) 564-9400
Source: Source: www.chineseparade.com/calendar.asp