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How is Chinese New Year celebrated in places outside of China?

The basic tenets of celebration for Chinese New Year stay the same regardless of location: food, family, friends, decoration, celebration.

Here, in the San Francisco Bay Area, where we have a robust community of Chinese immigrants & those (like myself) of Chinese descent, Chinese New Year is celebrated in a myriad of ways, both publicly and privately.

Publicly, SF is home to the biggest Chinese New Year Parade outside of Asia. It’s generally celebrated a few weeks after the lunar new year and draws crowds that number in the hundreds of thousands, with millions of viewers watching through the televised presentation as well.

Nowhere in the world will you see a lunar new year parade with more gorgeous floats, elaborate costumes, ferocious lions, exploding firecrackers, and of course the newly crowned Miss Chinatown U.S.A. and her court. A crowd favorite is the spectacular 288′ Golden Dragon (“Gum Lung”). It takes a team of over 180 men and women from the martial arts group, White Crane, to carry the Golden Dragon through the streets of San Francisco.

Image credit: CNY Festival & Parade on Instagram

There are also a long list of other events in the area, including the Flower Market Fair, the Miss Chinatown USA pageant, various local celebrations.

Our local malls & stores often decorate to celebrate the occasion in their window displays and with their offerings.

Privately, many families celebrate by decorating at home, visiting family, having celebratory gatherings with friends and family, and lots and lots of eating.

Red envelopes are given out to children & unmarried family members:

Wearing new clothes for the new year, for luck and so the old bad luck spirits from the past year do not recognize us:

Decorating our house for luck & good fortune:

And lots and lots of family time, remembering of our family that have passed on, and food for days (and weeks). Some of our faves for big family meals: dim sum & hot pot:

At the end of the day, regardless of where you are in the world, Chinese New Year is celebrated nearly the same: with food (sumptuous bountiful food, some with great meaning, some that’s just extravagant, and everything tasty besides), with family (as you can travel & visit to see everyone, you do, otherwise you call, send well wishes, etc, visit graves, light incense & place offerings in front of home ancestors’ shrines, etc), and with lots of joy (parades, firecrackers, flowers). It’s meant to be a time to celebrate new beginnings, to shake loose of old spirits of bad luck, etc, and to enjoy being alive and together.


Some Chinese customs & traditions explained:

Other Bay Area events celebrating the lunar new year: