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Bay Area Festivities for the Year of the Dragon

From Chinese caligraphy to lion dancers, here's our super list of Lunar New Year events traditionally a 15-day celebration, which starts Jan. 23.

The upcoming Monday brings a new lunar year of the Dragon, which East Asians believe is the most auspicious year in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac. To welcome the much-loved dragon, there are a great number of special events in the next three weeks.

Jan. 21

Chinese Church Dinner in Campbell: West Valley Christian Alliance Church will host a Lunar New Year celebration on site from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Performances are free, but dinner is $5 per person or $10 per family. Speeches will all be in Cantonese. For dinner tickets, call 408-244-9225.

Firebird Chinese Youth Orchestra Performance: The welcomes back the Firebird Youth Chinese Orchestra (FYCO) for another free concert. The orchestra, composed of young musicians playing traditional Chinese instruments, is a local Bay Area treasure. FYCO's mission is to promote Chinese music as an integral part of Chinese American culture, strengthening the Chinese community and enhancing the diversity and richness of American culture. This concert is free and begins at 2 p.m.

Children's Chinese New Year Lantern Event: Nature Gallery, 87 Town & Country Village, Palo Alto 94301, 2-4 p.m. Nature Gallery invites your children to join us for a Chinese Lunar New Year Lantern event with your children. This is owner, Carol Garsten's last family event in Palo Alto, and it coincides with the Chinese Year of the Dragon, officially commencing a few days later. The lantern celebration is a children's favorite tradition held on the first full moon, and we will have red paper lanterns for our young guests. New mayor, Yiaway Yeh, the first Chinese-American mayor of Palo Alto, will be on hand to meet your children as they mark ther wishes on their lanterns for an auspicious 2012. There will be a game and prizes, and photos taken. Organizers will supply the lanterns and cards for the wishes, or you may bring your own.

Jan. 21-22

Vietnamese Tet Festival in San Jose: Vietnamese Americans call Lunar New Year "Tet Festival." San Jose's 30th Tet Festival will take place at Santa Clara County Fairgrounds with a wide variety of activities including lion dances, crafts, fashion shows and photography as well as food booths. Tickets are $12 per adult, $8 per child and $10 for parking. For ticket information, click here.

Jan. 22

Lion Dance Performance: Enjoy a live performance by the Far East Dragon Lion Dancers in celebration of the new year in the shopping center in Milpitas. The performance is free and begins at 1 p.m.

Free Street Fair in Foster City: The Foster City Parks and Recreation Department will transform the William E. Walker Recreation Center into a traditional Chinese street fair, with musical, acrobatic and lion dance performances,  tea ceremony, martial arts, calligraphy, brush painting, storytelling, and Chinese-opera-style face painting from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The 12 Chinese zodiac animal characters will be there to greet children.

Free Cultural Activities at Newpark Mall in Newark: From noon to 3 p.m., shoppers can watch folk dance performances. There will also be hands-on craft lessons for families to make red lanterns and dragons.

Jan. 23

Bilingual Storytime in San Bruno: To kick off the Year of the Dragon, San Bruno Public Library will offer storytelling in English and Chinese from 6:30 to 8 p.m. with crafts and snacks around.

Jan. 24-Feb. 3

Lantern Riddles in Fremont: It is a Chinese tradition to hang riddles down from lanterns for people to solve on the 15th day of Lunar New Year, but Centerville Library in Fremont will display lantern riddles in English and Chinese for 11 days, starting the second day of the upcoming lunar year. Participants will receive a prize for every riddle they solve while each being allowed to solve up to two riddles per day. For inquiries, call Chien-Chun Chang at 510-795-2629 or email cchang@aclibrary.org.

Jan. 28

Los Altos Library Dragon Dance: Starting 11 a.m., students from Fremont Taiwan School will lead a dance originally from indigenous tribes in Taiwan. There will also be demonstrations on how to make a dragon boat and a dragon lantern.

Jan. 28

Penmanship Contest in Milpitas: Milpitas Community Chinese School which normally holds Saturday classes will have no classes Jan. 28 for a penmanship contest, during which students compete in calligraphy as part of the school's Chinese New Year's celebration.

Jan. 28-29 Crafts & Shows at Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose: Children can watch cultural performances and receive hands-on lessons on traditional Chinese crafts for the weekend, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Jan. 29

Free San Francisco Zoo Admission for Dragons: The San Francisco Zoo will present Chinese acrobatic performances, traditional Lion and folk dancing, Chinese yo-yo tricks and more family friendly entertainment from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is regular-priced but guests born in the Year of the Dragon, including 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, and 2012, can get in for free.

Feb. 4

Auction & Luncheon in Mountain View: Yew Chung International School Silicon Valley will celebrate Lunar New Year and its own 10th anniversary at I.F.E.S. Social Hall from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Besides student performances of Chinese songs and dances, Firebird Youth Chinese Orchestra will be there to play traditional Chinese instrumental music. Tickets are $5 to $50 depending on age. For detailed information, click here.

Feb. 4

Free Cultural Performances in Redwood City: There will be lion dancers, Red Panda Acrobats, martial arts, Chinese zodiac crafts, East Asian instrumental music, at the Courthouse Square from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For program schedule, click here. 

Chinese Calligraphy Demonstration at Saratoga Library: Saratoga resident Zhongyang Lu, whose work is currently on exhibit at the Saratoga Library, will demonstrate the five styles of Chinese Calligraphy, starting 2 p.m. The talk will be in Mandarin with English translation.

El Camino Youth Symphony's Lunar New Year Concert in Cupertino: El Camino Youth Symphony will perform works of Chinese composers such as Spring Festival Overture and Yellow River Piano Concerto at the Flint Center of Performing Arts. Zhiyin Choir, a Bay Area Chinese choir, will join the symphony to present Chinese songs. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. but will let audience members in at 6 p.m. for pre-show cultural demonstrations including how to write Chinese New Year's couplets, how to do Chinese brush paintings, and how to use chopsticks. Tickets are $25 each.

Miss Chinatown USA Pageant: This annual pageant is a treasured tradition for Chinese Americans. Young girls of Chinese descent from across the country will compete for prizes and scholarships at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, beginning at 7:30 p.m. The winner and runners-up will serve as goodwill ambassadors for the Chinese community throughout the U.S. Tickets are $35-65 each. Contact the Palace of Fine Arts to purchase tickets.

Spring Festival Silicon Valley: The Chinese Performing Arts of America will present a musical, Legend of the Dragon, as well as dances, magic and martial arts at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, starting 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25, $38, $50 and $100 with 40 percent discount for seniors and children. Call 408-973-8276 for tickets.

Feb. 5

Year of the Dragon Celebration: Students from the Chinese American International School will perform Chinese classical music, Chinese ethnic minority dances and a lion dance at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. Attendees will get to listen to new-year stories and make dragon crafts. Admission is free. The event is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Feb. 10

Miss Chinatown USA Coronation Ball: The new Miss Chinatown USA and her court are crowned at this elegant black-tie dinner and dance at the San Francisco Hilton and Towers. The event is from 6 p.m. to midnight. Tickets are $120 each.

Feb. 11

San Francisco Symphany Reception & Concert: The SFS Chinese New Year Concert features a fusion of music from the East and the West. It starts at 4 p.m, but ticket holders can arrive at 3 p.m. for a festival reception in the lobbies of the Davies Symphony Hall, where there will be caricature artists, fortune tellers, face painters, balloon artists, Chinese calligraphers, airbrush artists, stilt-walkers, contortionists, Chinese plate spinners, and an arts & crafts station. Tickets are $15 to $68. For tickets, click here. For Imperial Dinner packages that include premium concert seating, call 415-503-5500.

San Francisco Parade: Now sponsored by Southwest Airlines, the San Francisco tradition that started right after the Gold Rush will bring out over 100 units this year, including a 250-foot golden dragon carried by a team of over 100 men and women throughout the streets of San Francisco. The parade, starting at 6 p.m., will be broadcast on KTVU Fox 2 and KTSF Channel 26.

Feb. 11-12

Chinatown Community Street Fair: Enjoy calligraphy, kite-making demonstrations, and a stage with acrobatics, folk dancing, lion dancing and other traditional Chinese New Year entertainment. It all takes place in Chinatown, San Francisco, on Grant Avenue, from California to Broadway; and on Pacific Avenue, Washington and Jackson, from Kearny to Stockton, on Feb. 11, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Feb. 12, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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