Updated Feb. 14: More events have been added to this list of Lunar New Year festivities.
Happy New Year!
We used to only call it "Chinese New Year," because the earliest celebrations going back nearly to the Gold Rush were by Chinese. But the new year (according to the lunar calendar) is celebrated by Koreans, Vietnamese and Hmong as well.
Sunday is the Year of the Snake in the Chinese zodiac, and Vietnamese also observe the snake year.
No matter whether you call it—Seolnal, Tet, Sun Neen, Xin Nian, or just the New Year, the day means a big, celebratory feast, new clothes and holding off any churlish talk in order to set the tone for the entire year ahead. New Year's day is always set aside for family. Then, in the days following, the visiting of friends and relatives, and the public celebrations begin.
Nowadays, there are so many groups and only so many weekends for public events, the lunar new year celebrations have stretched out bookend the actual day. The oldest—the San Francisco Chinese New Year celebration—always has the parade on the second Saturday after the New Year. Oakland Chinatown is convenng its smaller celebration the second weekend. And Hoi Tet, the San Jose Vietnamese celebration, was held last weekend at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. It can be a little tough, jockeying for a time and a date within the new year period. Some hold an event on the actual day itself.
Here's a highlight of events by date around the Bay:
Saturday, Feb. 16:
Entertainment from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The San Francisco Sunset Recreation Center Dance Troupe will perform ethnic and folk dances from China (Han-Northeast Region, Xinjiang, Mongolian, Tibetan, India, Korea and Sri Lanka. Led by volunteer instructor, choregrpaher, and costume designer Yang Chun, the group won a silver medal at the 2011 Chinese Athletic Dance.Local Chinese musicians and dancers will join them in the performance. Plus from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. children’s garden crafts with the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society; potting plants and making Lunar New Year Lanterns
Chinese Chamber and Southwest Airlines Basketball Jamboree: Six games, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Betty Ong Recreation Center, Mason and Washington streets, San Francisco. Free for spectators.
Stir-Frying in the Year of the Snake with Cookbook Author Grace Young: at the Chinese Historical Society of America. The James Beard winner of Best International Cookbook demystifies wok cooking. Chinese American food writer will give a presentation of her cookbook, “Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge” Free. 1 p.m. 965 Clay St., San Francisco
Chinese New Year Festival at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center. Arts and crafts and cultural performances. Free. 288 Ninth Street, Suite 290, Oakland.
The Miss Chinatown USA Competition: Watch the contestants from around the country compete for the title at Palace of Fine Arts Theater, 3301 Lyon St., San Francisco. 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35.
Sunday, Feb. 17:
Tai Chi Performance Group from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Marvel at the grace and coordination of the San Francisco Jing Cai Tai Chi Team as 33 practitioners demonstrate the elaborate and dramatic sword form among others. After the demonstration, the team will lead the audience in Tai Chi forms.
Chinese New Year 10K Run: Run all throughout Chinatown! Benefits the YMCA program. There's a 5K fun run. Runners meet at Sacramento and Grant streeets in San Francisco at 8 a.m.
Lunar New Year Celebration and Other Asian Traditions: The Oakland Museum of California always puts on a nice event, featuring Japanese mochi pounding, acrobats, Malaysian drum performance, Chinese Opera face-painting, Mah-jong lessons, a dragon dance, and more. 12-4:30 p.m. 1000 Oak St., Oakland; Museum admission fee.
Saturday, Feb. 23:
The City of Redwood City is hosting its 3rd Annual Lunar New Year Festival in
Courthouse Square & San Mateo County History Museum (Free Museum Admission this day.) The celebration will feature lion dancers, red panda acrobats, martial arts, kids arts & zodiac themed crafts, food, inflatable Playland and more! 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Chinatown Community Fair takes place the entire weekend, Feb. 23-24. Wander the length and breadth of San Francisco Chinatown and partake. There's calligraphy, fortune telling and lion dancing. Families can pose next to the dragon, and giant puppets.
Chinese Historical Society of America Celebrates the Year of the Snake: This gem of a museum opens its doors for a full day of events, including a full day of family activities featuring new exhibitions Hats Off! and Creative Spaces; tour of Frank Wong's Miniatures; Dragon Dance by the CHSA Museum Dragon Dance Team; Crafts for Children inspired by Hats Off!; and Concert with Miss Janet the Planet and Uncle Charlie with Songs, Jokes, Puppets and Fun for ages 4 and up. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free Admission (Museum admission is free through the end of February.
Southwest Chinese New Year Parade the granddaddy of them all, one of the few night parades in the country, has a new route this year, because of construction taking place around Union Square.It features lighted floats, lots marching bands from around the country, waving Miss Chinatown contestants, more than a few prides of dancing dragons performing feats of agility, and, of course Gum Loong, the 268-foot long lighted dragon that is the finale. The parade steps off at 5:15 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 24:
Chinatown Community Fair takes place the entire weekend, Feb. 23-24. There's calligraphy, fortune telling and lion dancing. Families can pose next to the dragon, and giant puppets.
$3 Chinatown Park & Ride - We had to put this here so you could see it. The best parking deal in San Francisco, and particularly for the new year festivities. It operates Saturdays and Sundays, until 10 p.m., park in the Golden Gateway at Drumm and Washington streets in the Financial District and take a free shuttle to Chinatown with validation at participating organizations, including the Chinese Historical Society of America.