Ancient traditions ignite excitement at San Francisco's Lunar New Year Parade

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Firecrackers and lion dances set off the Lunar New Year Parade in San Francisco to celebrate traditions that date back thousands of years.

Wong Xitao says this an important time of year to be with family. He attended with his wife and children, who all live in San Francisco.

"We want to teach (our children) about Chinese heritage, culture and to enjoy the history of it," explains Xitao.

Rui Xiohe brought her family who are visiting from China. She says the family doesn't usually celebrate the Lunar New Year back home, so it's extra special to be out tonight.

"They haven't seen this in years, so they feel so happy to see this here, in a foreign country," says Xihoe, who moved to San Francisco from China three years ago.

The parade was packed with floats, marching bands and traditional lion and dragon dances. But one thing was missing this year: the crowds.

"It's not so crowded," says Elizabeth Velazquez, who lives in San Jose.

There were lots of empty spaces along the usually packed parade route through parts of Market Street. Some city leaders were predicting that the Coronavirus, which has hit China and other parts of Asia, would impact turnout.

"I think you're going to miss out if you're going to generalize, and miss out on such a great opportunity," says Angelika Burgin, who came out from Emeryville.

"I'm learning a lot. I'm learning all the different dance styles and moves," says Jimmy Somarriva, who lives in Pittsburg.

This was his first parade. He knows lots of people stayed home, he says it was important to come out. "The community comes first. That's what I am here for," he says.

San Francisco's parade is often referred to as the largest of its kind outside of Asia.

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