Lunar New Year

Year of the Pig Celebrations Ring in the New Year

By Jonathan Farrell

This year is the year of the pig, according to the Chinese lunar calendar, and is set to bring good luck and fortune in 2019. The cultural tradition is being celebrated with events across the City.

The Chinese lunar calendar has been around for almost 3,000 years, dating back to the Shang Dynasty. It is based on the moon’s cycles, causing the new year to fall on a different day every year, sometime between late January and early February. This year, it will begin on Feb. 5 and end on Jan. 24, 2020. 

Known as Shengxiao, meaning “born resembling,” the Chinese zodiac repeats in a 12-year cycle and each year is represented by an animal and its corresponding attributes. The pig occupies the 12th position in the Chinese lunar calendar, signifying qualities such as diligence, compassion and generosity. 

The zodiac pig is also considered to have a strong sense of concentration and responsibility and does well in the face of adversity by handling problems calmly and carefully. 

Many of the events celebrating the new year are scheduled throughout February into early March, with the City’s main celebration being the world-famous Chinese New Year’s Parade taking place on Feb. 23. The festivities will begin at 5 p.m. downtown at Market and Second streets and will march past Union Square, culminating at the edge of Chinatown on Columbus Avenue and Kearny Street. 

The International Festivals and Events Association calls the San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade one of the top 10 parades in the world. It is the largest New Year’s parade outside of Asia. Also setting it apart is the fact that it is one of the few remaining illuminated night-time parades in North America. 

The parade’s beginnings date back to the Gold Rush era. San Francisco had become a melting pot of cultures by the 1860s and the Chinese community chose an American tradition, the parade, as a method of preserving and sharing their culture with the rest 

Like most parades, there are drums, flags, banners and lights, but the standout attraction and crowd favorite is the 288-foot-long Golden Dragon, also known as “Gum Lung.” It takes more than 180 men and women from the martial arts group White Crane to carry the Golden Dragon as it slithers its way through the streets of San Francisco.

Hundreds of thousands of spectators come to watch the parade in person and millions more watch it on television. The parade will be broadcast on KTVU-Fox 2 from 6-8 p.m., on Saturday, Feb. 23.

Another major event is the annual Miss Chinatown U.S.A. Beauty Pageant. Hundreds of young women from across the United States come to San Francisco to compete in the annual event and the newly crowned queen and her lucky court go on to become goodwill ambassadors for the Chinese community throughout the new year. The pageant takes place at the Palace of Fine Arts Theater on Saturday, Feb. 16, at 7:30 p.m.

The San Francisco Zoo, located at Sloat Boulevard and the Great Highway, will also host Lunar New Year celebrations on Feb. 9 and 10. The celebrations will include a traditional lion and folk dances as well as a zodiac scavenger hunt. All guests born in the Year of the Pig can enjoy free admission on those dates. 

Closing out the holiday is the Chinese Community Health Plan Chinese New Year 5K/10K run which will take place on March 3, at 8 a.m. The race is a fundraiser to benefit the Chinatown YMCA’s physical education program and Community Center, which serves 1,600 youth and their families by promoting wellness and community through weekly programs. The starting line will be on Grant Avenue and Sacramento Street.

You can register for this event online at http://www.ymcasf.org/cnyrun through Feb. 24 or in person at 855 Sacramento St. on or before race day.

For more information and tickets to any of these events, please go to the website at chineseparade.com.

Happy New Year, or Gung Hay Fat Choy!

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