Celebrating Chinese New Year in San Francisco

Chinese New Year is a two week Spring festival celebrated for over 5,000 years in China. The most important of the Chinese holidays, the celebration lasts for 15 days and culminates with the Lantern Festival. Millions around the world will celebrate the first day of the Chinese New Year on February 18-19, 2015. It’ll be February 18 according to U.S. calendars, and February 19 in Asia.

newyearSFFor the past couple of years, we have celebrated Chinese New Year in San Francisco Chinatown – our favorite way to celebrate the holiday. The San Francisco Chinese New Year celebration originated in the 1860’s during the Gold Rush days and is now the largest Asian event in North America as well as the largest general market event in Northern California. The celebration includes two major fairs, the Chinese New Year Flower Fair and Chinatown Community Street Fair. All the festivities culminate with Chinese New Year Parade.

Named one of the top ten parades in the world, Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco is one of the few remaining night illuminated parades in the country. Each year is associated with one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. Many of the floats feature the theme of current zodiac sign; for 2015, it’s the Year of the Sheep (or Ram).

In 2013, we went alone and upon our return, the kids created a news-style report to share what they had learned, Chinese New Year in San Francisco. The following year, we invited friends to join us and it was so much fun to share in our new tradition.

sfnewyear

We enjoy meandering along the streets during the Community Street Fair, shopping in the many stores (we always find great Mandarin language books), and stopping at the vendor booths. Coca Cola and McDonalds always have great giveaways and cues that wrap around several blocks! The restaurants are many – making it difficult to choose. Of course, we can’t leave Chinatown without stopping at the Fortune Cookie Factory.

There is something for everyone and we always have a great time. We look forward to this weekend getaway every year.

Activities to Celebrate Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year | Multicultural Kid Blogs

This post is part of the Chinese New Year series and giveaway on Multicultural Kid Blogs. Enter our giveaway to win one of these great prize packages, and don’t forget to link up your own posts about Chinese New Year on our main page!

Giveaway begins Jan. 21 and goes through midnight ET on March 5, 2015. Enter below for a chance to win! Remember you can make a comment on the blog post of a different co-host each day for an additional entry.

First Prize Package

All About China

From Tuttle Publishing, All About China: Take the whole family on a whirlwind tour of Chinese history and culture with this delightfully illustrated book that is packed with stories, activities and games. Travel from the stone age through the dynasties to the present day with songs and crafts for kids that will teach them about Chinese language and the Chinese way of life.

Long-Long's New Year

Also from Tuttle Publishing, Long-Long’s New Year, a beautifully illustrated picture book about a little Chinese boy named Long-Long, who accompanies his grandfather into the city to sell cabbages in order to buy food and decorations for the New Year. Selling cabbages is harder than Long-Long expects, and he encounters many adventures before he finds a way to help his grandfather, and earn New Year’s treats for his mother and little cousin.

A Little Mandarin

From A Little Mandarin, a CD featuring a collection of Chinese children’s classics – songs loved by families in China for generations – given new life with a contemporary sound and voice. The 15 tracks fuse rock, pop, dance, ska, and hip hop influences with playful lyrics to make it a unique and fun learning companion for all ages. Featured on Putumayo Kids Presents World Sing-Along.

Second Prize Package

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Celebrating the Chinese New Year

From Tuttle Publishing, Celebrating the Chinese New Year, in which Little Mei’s grandfather tells her the stories of Nian and the monster Xi for Chinese New Year.

The Sheep Beauty

Also from Tuttle Publishing, The Sheep Beauty, which brings to life the kindness and generosity of those born under the sign of the sheep in the Chinese zodiac.

Chinese Zodiac Animals

Also from Tuttle Publishing, Chinese Zodiac Animals, a fun and informative way to learn about the ancient Chinese Zodiac, explaining the traits of each animal sign and what luck the future might hold for the person born under that sign.

Monkey Drum

From Tiny Tapping Toes, a monkey drum, plus a free pdf of a craft version. World Music children’s performer DARIA has spent the last two decades performing in the USA and around the world, creating music to inspire all the world’s children and allowing children to become a part of the celebration and the fun of exploring world cultures.

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San Francisco Chinatown

We’ve been to Chinatown before … in Vancouver, New York, San Francisco and even Portland. As the kiddos are learning Mandarin, it is an opportunity to practice their language skills as well as experience a tiny bit of another culture.  We thereby visit whenever the opportunity arises.  Thus, our visit to San Francisco last week was not complete without spending a portion of the day in Chinatown.  This time, we visited a few new places … both of which the munchkins have asked, “Can we stop here every time we come to Chinatown?”

When we first left the motel on 2nd and Howard, Sweetie asked if she could hold the city map.  I asked if she wanted to be the navigator and she exclaimed with glee, “Yeah!”  We led us to the Children’s Creativity Museum and from their she directed us to Powell Street Station to catch the cable car.  I was very impressed with her sense of direction.  Upon boarding the cable car, she was careful to read each street sign and signaled to us when we had arrived at Jackson Street, where she felt we should get off.

Fresh frog legs, anyone?

We walked two blocks – stopping briefly when anything unusual (at least us) and then turned onto an alley where we immediately found the San Francisco Fortune Cookie Factory.  It is literally a hole in the wall … located on Ross Alley, it is one of the oldest fortune cookie companies in San Francisco.  If you are looking for a tourist attraction (i.e. a tour), gourmet fortune cookies, single cookies, or picture taking opportunities (they charge 50 cents) – this place is not for you.  If you are looking for a tiny shop, free samples, flat cookies, cookies in bulk, or great customer service – you’ve found the right place.

The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory

Within a few paces of the entrance you can see fortune cookies being made right in front of you. First, the thin circular cookie is pulled off a hot press. Then, a fortune is placed on one side of the hot, flat dough. Next, each soft, hot cookie is shaped over a steel rod into the shape of a fortune cookie. This process must be done very quickly, otherwise the cookie will harden before it has the right fortune cookie shape. When you are inside the factory, you will be amazed at how quickly the fortune cookies are made.  An elderly man was at the entrance giving us free samples of warm cookies fresh of the grill.  We watched for a few minutes while enjoying our samples and then before departing, purchased a bag of flats for ourselves.

Enjoying their first tea sampling at Aroma Tea Company

From there we wandered about, going into shops that appealed to us including a coin / jewelry store that had solid gold coins.  Buddy wanted to buy one of course but it was several thousand dollars.  He settled for a gold-colored U.S. dollar coin instead … an even exchange.  Sweetie found the Aroma Tea Company and saw that the sign said, “Free Tea Tasting” so she asked if we couldn’t take part.  We sampled three types of tea and purchased two.  Great idea, Sweetie!  My stop was to a book store where we purchased a few children’s books and a tablet for each of the kiddos to practice writing their characters.

Another delightful afternoon exploring and learning.  Life is good.