San Francisco Chinese New Year Travel Guide. Learn about festivities like the parade, how to save money on hotels

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San Francisco was a sleepy village of less than 500 people before the Gold Rush. It mushroomed to over 50,000 people in 1849, including many immigrants from China. In 1852, 67,000 immigrants came to San Francisco, with almost one third of them being Chinese.

Chinese New Year Parade

In the 1860s, the Chinese in San Francisco began to celebrate Chinese New Year, aka Lunar New Year, by using an American tradition of a parade in Chinatown. This grew in size over the decades and became so large in the 1970s that it had to be moved out of Chinatown to wider streets. Today, the Chines New Year Parade attracts more than 3 million people every year.

And it is a sight to behold! There are more than 100 parade entries each year. Participants march down the street carrying flags, lanterns and drums. Beautiful, colorful floats delight the crowds. You’ll see dragon dancers, stilt walkers, acrobats, costumed marchers, martial arts displays and much more. Lots of firecrackers will be going off to ward off evil spirits. The Grand Finale is a huge dragon all lit up and over 200 feet long, carried by 100 dragon dancers.

This year, Chinese New Year falls on February 10, 2024, and that is the first day of the Year of the Dragon. The Year of the Dragon Live Parade will be held on February 24, 2024.

Flower Market Fair

While spectacular, the Parade is only one part of San Francisco’s Chinese New Year Festival. The celebrations will begin with the Flower Market Fair on February 3 and 4, 2024.

The Chinese New Year Flower Market Fair is always held on the weekend before the Chinese New Year so people can buy what they need to celebrate the new lunar year. This includes

  • Fresh Flowers & Plants symbolize growth and if a plant blooms on New Year Day you will have a year of prosperity. The Chinese believe that without flowers there would be no formation of any fruits to bear seeds for the next generation.
  • Sweets symbolize happiness and sweetness and are served to visiting family and friends on a Harmony Tray during Chinese New Year.
  • Oranges & Tangerines are symbols for abundant happiness and luck.

While shopping, you’ll be entertained by traditional Chinese magicians, folk dancers, opera singers, acrobats and more. The Fair has over 120 booths and concessions. All this makes for a delightful shopping experience.

Choy Sun Doe

The 2024 Choy Sun Doe is scheduled for Chinese New Year Day. Choy Sun is the god of wealth. He blesses everyone he meets with much prosperity and wealth.

The San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce will have Choy Suns in Chinatown passing out thousands of “Lai Sees” to eagerly awaiting children. “Lai Sees” are red envelopes passed out during Chinese New Year as a good luck symbol. All the “Lai Sees” will contain a chocolate gold coin. Some will have money or a gift certificate for a toy.

The Community Street Fair will be held on February 24 and 25, 2024.

Over 120 booths and concession stands make this a shopper’s paradise. The San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce is offering activities and entertainment for all ages. You’ll see Chinese folk dancing, opera and drumming on the entertainment stage. Get family photos taken with the giant puppets, the dragon and other memorable artifacts from the Chinese New Year Parade.

More Information

If you’d like to visit San Francisco to enjoy these celebrations, you can save money by booking one of these hotels.

To get a better understanding of Chinatown and Chinese culture and cuisine, take a walking tour of Chinatown, a history tour, or a food tour.