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Romance and the Dragon

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By Wayne Lazarus on January 25th, 2010

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

This year Chinese New Year falls on Valentines Day, so you can celebrate romance amid the brilliant color and spectacle of this ancient festival. San Francisco’s Chinese New Year festival, started in the 19th century, is now the largest Asian event in the U.S. and takes place over two weeks.

Two different fairs draw both locals and tourists — the Chinese New Year Flower Fair and Chinatown Community Street Fair. The festivities culminate with the Chinese New Year Parade, which was named one of the top ten parades in the world by International Festivals and Events Association (IFEA.)

Costumed GirlsIMG_4897The Flower Fair affords the opportunity to buy flowers and produce that are traditional for the lunar New Year. (All those blooms fit right in with the romance theme.) Many traditional cultural arts, including Chinese music and dancing will be demonstrated. Live plants and flowers are an important part of the New Year customs — signifying happiness, abundance and growth. A variety of blooming plants will be on hand, providing a beautiful backdrop to the celebrations.

Cultural arts are a big part of the Street Fair. Puppet shows, folk dancing, acrobats and magic are among the scheduled entertainment. Traditionalists will demonstrate both kite- and lantern-making, calligraphy and painting. Over 500,000 people will be visiting the streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown during the New Year celebration.

The parade is the finale of the New Year’s excitement with its brilliant IMG_4238colors, over-the-top costumes, acrobats, clowns, lion dancers, marching bands and marital arts groups. Over 100 entrants will entertain bystanders and 600,000 firecrackers will keep things lively. Characters from the Chinese zodiac will be represented. (2010 is the year of the Tiger.) Every year, the Lion dancers are a standout in the parade. This animal represents joy and happiness to the Chinese. Last in the parade will be the Golden Dragon. Over 200 feet long and carried by 100 people, it is covered from nose to tail in colored lights and trimmed with white rabbit fur. The dragon is considered a benign animal in Chinese culture — representing strength, adventure courage and prosperity. Its appearance signals the end of the celebration and the beginning of the abundant new life that each new year brings.

(Photos: Knight Lights Photography, courtesy Chinese Chamber of Commerce. Used with permission.)

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