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San Francisco's Chinatown Prepares for Lunar New Year's Return after Covid-19 hiatus

INTERNATIONAL: After a hiatus last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, San Francisco's Chinese New Year Festival and Parade returns to the city's famed Chinatown neighborhood this year.

The San Francisco Chinese New Year festival officially kicks off on Tuesday ,February 1, with the start of the Lunar New Year. Its parade follows on Saturday,February 19. However, the annual celebration began unofficially on Saturday.

Residents are excited and they say it’s just really heartwarming. Of course, Chinese New Year, Lunar New Year, is a time for celebration and gratitude for your family and all your loved ones, hopes and wishes for a better new year.

According to the Chinese New Year Festival and Parade Director, Harlan Wong ; "Chinese New Year is one of the biggest events for the Chinese culture. I always describe it as three of our American holidays rolled into one. It's like Thanksgiving because as a matter of fact, instead of just one big family meal, we have many family gatherings. It's like Christmas, instead of passing out gifts, we pass out red envelopes. There's no gift returning because they all contain money. And then it's like Mardi Gras, a big parade, ending with a big celebration."

Since the pandemic, no one has really stepped outside of their house. This year finally, after vaccinations and all of that, people are starting to come out a bit.

Chinese New Year is about new beginnings, good luck, family coming together, the community coming together, lots of hope and good fortune for everyone. It's a very positive time of the year for everyone.

The neighborhood's atmosphere has largely been subdued over the past two years with the pandemic forcing the state to issue a shelter-in-place order in March 2020.

In addition, Asian and Asian-American communities have suffered from rising rates of hate crimes during the past two years. Statistics showed that 60 hate crimes were committed against Asians in San Francisco during 2021, up from only nine the year before, city police announced this past week.

But on Saturday,29 January, the streets were packed with residents to pick up traditional holiday items such as the Kumquat tree, which symbolizes good luck and prosperity, a variety of flowers which symbolize anything from fertility and abundance to endurance and courage, and special envelopes used to give cash.

Several blocks from downtown, festival and parade director Harlan Wong has been busy preparing for the event's return. At an empty store in the Embarcadero Center, Wong is overseeing the construction of props for the parade, including a giant dragon.

He compares Lunar New Year to Thanksgiving, Christmas and Mardi Gras, all rolled into one super holiday. He says he cannot wait for the official kickoff. "For 2022, we're hoping to have a big comeback, we want to be roaring back like a tiger," he said. He said the past two years have been rough for business and the neighborhood in general.


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