People celebrate the Chinese New Year in Chinatown February 9, 2005 in San Francisco, California. [Image Source: David Paul Morris/Getty Images]

San Francisco’s Annual Chinese New Year Parade – The Largest Outside of Asia


As the Chinese New Year of the Horse (马年) rang in on January 31, celebrations took place worldwide. The annual San Francisco Chinese New Year parade is the largest celebration of its kind outside of Asia, one of the top ten parades in the world, as well as the largest Asian cultural event in North America. The parade originated in the 1860's during the gold rush era in the city’s then young Chinatown.

This year’s official parade is scheduled for Saturday, February 15, and will include over 100 floats, 600,000 firecrackers, and a 200-foot golden dragon. The parade annually attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators, either along the route or on television, to see the elaborate floats and costumes, dragons, lion dancers, and hear the firecrackers during the celebrations.

There was also a smaller parade on the actual Chinese New Year’s Day on January 31 in San Francisco’s Chinatown also featuring a 200-foot long golden dragon and a water snake as a way to ward off the Year of the Snake, along with lion dancers and firecrackers. Fittingly on horseback, members of the San Francisco Police Department's mounted unit also participated in the event to welcome the New Year of the Horse. “The horse has always symbolized strength, positivity, overcoming all the different challenges and so we’re here to celebrate, kick off the year. The next two weeks will be a lot of family celebrations, a lot of community celebrations,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who attended the January 31 celebration. Mayor Lee is expected to also attend the larger February 15 parade.

Yifan Cao is a University of Sydney Intern at the East-West Center in Washington