Married on the third day of December in our backyard, Canberra, Australia.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

恭喜发财- Congratulations and Be Prosperous

We went to the Chinese New Year celebrations in San Francisco on Sunday, heralding the start of the year of the pig. The celebrations included street markets during the day, and a 3 hour parade at night. It was fitting that we watched our first Chinese New year parade in San Francisco, considering that the first such parade was held in that city in the 1860s. We spent a total of nearly 11 hours in China Town and Telegraph Hill.

During the day several streets were closed off for a street market. A lot of the stalls had spinning wheels where people could test their fortune coming into the new year. There were lots of small fireworks on sale in preparation for the parade. Some of the stalls had showbags filled with free food, but the lines stretched around the block. We took some time to look at the Fortune Cookie Factory, and to visit the Old St Marys Cathedral. Old St Marys is California's first cathedral, it survived the 1906 earthquake that destroyed a lot of the city.

We left the festivities for a while so that we could check out the view from Coit Tower. At 210 feet high Coit Tower has magnificent views of the Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco. It was a big climb up Telegraph Hill, but we got some great photos.

Louise booked seats for the parade, which turned out to be smart considering that tens of thousands of people turned out, some even sitting on top of bus shelters to watch.

The Chinese Chamber of Commerce decided not to let the Falun Gong participate, so Falun Gong practitioners were handing out leaflets instead. Falun Gong may be wacky types, but it takes a lot to stand up against government sponsored genocide, torture and crimes against humanity. They were allowed to participate in other Chinese New Year parades in the US and Canada.

The parade featured a variety of dragons, dancers, school groups, marching bands, politicians, business representatives and martial artists. Miss China Town and Yul Kwon also had floats. There were plenty of opportunities to touch the dragons for good luck, and some of the floats threw sweets to the crowd to offer everyone a sweet new year.

The school groups were outstanding, with children dressed as papier mache pigs and dragons.

It took a while for the parade to reach our seats, since we were near the end of the route. By the time the parade reached us the street was littered with crackers and silly string. We also mistakenly thought it had finished three separate times because large gaps developed between floats. The giant finale dragon was worth waiting for though.

Ps. Wikipedia has a thorough Chinese New Year article.