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SF’s Lunar New Year parade, events continue on despite Omicron surge concerns

As the Year of the Tiger approaches, San Francisco’s Chinese community is gearing up for Lunar New Year celebrations and events despite the concerning surge of the Omicron variant.

“We talked to merchants. Even though they have concerns, they all welcome the celebrations and activities to bring back the locals and tourists to Chinatown,” said Harlan Wong, director of the Chinese New Year Festival & Parade.

City Attorney David Chiu, Supervisor Gordon Mar and local merchants gathered Thursday afternoon at the Cable Car Museum in Chinatown to reassure the community that most of the annual Lunar New Year events will go on, as well as to unveil new Lunar New Year artwork.

Muni decorated one of its iconic cable cars with a Lunar New Year theme to kick off the festivities. | Han Li

Wong said the organization’s board met last week and decided to continue with the events as planned.

The annual Chinese New Year Flower Market will take place at Grant Avenue on Saturday, Jan. 29, and Sunday, Jan. 30. On Feb. 1, an opening ceremony event called Choy Sun Doe (Welcoming the God of Wealth Day) will be held to officially celebrate the Chinese New Year at Portsmouth Square.

Three other major events are set to bring the community together: the Miss Chinatown U.S.A. Pageant competition on Feb. 12; the highly anticipated Chinese New Year Parade, which usually attracts tens of thousands of people, on Feb. 19; and the Lantern Festival street fair the same weekend as the parade.

The Year of the Rat parade in 2020 was the last major event in San Francisco’s Chinatown before the pandemic hit. This year, Hollywood actor and Asian American community activist Daniel Wu will serve as the Grand Marshal for the parade.

Wong emphasized that extra cautionary measures will be placed for parade events, which will require volunteers and participants to be fully vaccinated or show negative test results before joining.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will also join in the celebration, as the department decorated one of its iconic cable cars with a Lunar New Year theme to kick off the festivities. The cable car will run through the city’s most popular tourist route until Feb. 20.

Two smaller events have been canceled: the Stockton Street market fair hosted by Chinatown Neighborhood Association and the Chinatown basketball games. Pius Lee, the president of the Chinatown Neighborhood Association, said in a text message that the event was canceled “because of the pandemic and to protect public safety.”

Outside of Chinatown, the Sunset District will also have a celebration at the Outer Sunset Farmers Market on Feb. 6. Mar, the supervisor for the Sunset district, said the event is scheduled on the first week of February but it won’t “compete with Chinatown.”

“There’s been a lot of interest from the Chinese community, even the broader community in the Sunset, to bring in the celebration, particularly the Chinese New Year celebration,” Mar said.

A tiger sculpture is displayed in Union Square as part of the Lunar New Year celebration. | Han Li

Similar to 2021, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce is launching the life-size tiger sculptures exhibition across the city. Six public artworks will be displayed in six different spots, including Union Square, the Asian Art Museum, and Chase Center’s plaza.

Correction: This story has been updated to delete an incorrect reference to when cable cars were first decorated for Lunar New Year.

Han Li can be reached at