Lunar New Year: Year of the Dragon celebrations kick off across the Bay Area

Sunday, February 11, 2024
Year of the Dragon celebrations kick off across the Bay Area
Lunar New Year celebrations are well underway across the Bay Area, kicking off The Year of the Dragon.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Lunar New Year celebrations are well underway across the Bay Area, kicking off The Year of the Dragon.

From the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory in San Francisco to Oakland's Chinatown, the festivities are bringing communities together.

"I'm looking forward to a wonderful performance and everybody going home, feeling really satisfied that they learned something really special tonight,"'said Cassindy Chao, co-president of Piedmont Asian American Club, which was hosting a Lunar New Year celebration Friday night.

Hundreds gathered at the Ellen Driscoll Playhouse to take part in traditional food, arts and more.

MORE: What is Lunar New Year and how is it different from Chinese New Year?

"We all really have the common interest of sharing culture and celebrating the passion. We all have for our culture with each other. And everyone just likes to do it together," said Olivia Stevens, piedmont resident.

From young to old, audience members were captivated by traditional dance and musical performances.

"It speaks to how much people want to learn about other cultures or even celebrate their own with community members that they might not even know," said Josephine Oesterer, a student at Piedmont High School.

Volunteers like her made the night possible - with dozens of high school students giving their time.

MORE: San Francisco gears up for Super Bowl, Lunar New Year celebrations this weekend

"I'm most looking forward to making a bit of an impact on the kids and just showing them that, you know, it's OK to connect with your Chinese culture and to embrace it," said high school student Veda Pao-Ziegler.

Event organizers said the support at this time is meaningful to the community.

"AAPI hate really makes us feel vulnerable as a community, so I'm so heartened that so many people came out for this," Chao said.

"I want to say Happy New Year to the whole community and to everybody. Enjoy," said Xinja Xia, Chinese teacher at Piedmont High School. "This is the best Lunar New Year I've had ever."

Year of the Dragon has Oakland's Chinatown bustling with business

Many businesses in Oakland Chinatown are prospering from this year's Lunar New Year celebrations.

The long lines in Oakland's Chinatown are of people buying food for New Year Eve's dinner. Barbeque pork, roasted duck and chicken are part of the traditional ancestorial offerings.

"Whatever tastes good, you are like, 'Oh, it is going to be a good offering for the ancestor.' And in that way, they will offer us wellness and health for the next year," said Thuy Nguyen, Oakland resident, who was waiting to buy chicken.

Nguyen is among the tens of thousands of Asian Americans who will celebrate the Year of the Dragon, which began Saturday.

The Dragon is the only mythical creature among the 12 Chinese zodiacs signs. The Year of the Dragon is believed to represent courage, bravery and passion. It also symbolizes strong leadership.

"(The) dragon. They have the energy. Just a like a dance, they have the energy," says Carol Liao, a Chinatown business owner.

MORE: World-renowned winery Iron Horse Vineyards developed a special brut for Lunar New Year

She posted blessings on her storefront to offer her customers and the community. She says Oakland's Chinatown was hard hit during the pandemic, followed by a crime wave. But she says the busy streets are a sign that the New Year will usher in change.

"You see, we are already. (It's) more clean, more safe. Every store, is (aiming) for prosperity," she said.

Stewart Chen is president of the Oakland Chinatown Improvement Council. He says as tradition goes, Saturday will be a day of rest. Sunday a day of worship.

He is looking forward to the following Sunday, Feb. 18, for the second-annual Oakland Chinatown parade. It is expected to attract thousands.

"If you walk around Chinatown today, and actually yesterday, too, there are a lot more shoppers. Out of town shoppers are coming back. They are shopping here. They are dining. They are seeing their doctor and their dentists. It gives us hope," says Chen.

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