San Francisco was alive with the sounds of beat drums and ignited firecrackers as the city's 163rd Chinese New Year Parade — which remains one of the largest of its kind outside of Asia — weaved around Chinatown Saturday night, offering a glimpse into a familiar post-pandemic future.
The past two years have seen an alarming increase in hate crimes conducted against AAPI community members not only here in the Bay Area but across the country, as well. Data compiled of recorded hate crimes published last year by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism revealed that anti-Asian hate crimes increased by 339% last year compared to the year before, with New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities surpassing their record numbers in 2020. The findings also showed a disproportionate relation between the overall 11% increase in suspected hate crimes reported to police across the country.
But Saturday night's fantastical return of the San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade was a kinetic love letter to the city's strong Asian American community amid a time marked by social turmoil and economic recovery from the pandemic. For 2022, the city's Chinese New Year festivities were organized under the theme of “Resilience Embracing Beauty and Strength.”
“We hope that the community continues to be resilient,” said Stephanie Wong, longtime parade-goer and winner of San Francisco’s 2016 Miss Chinatown U.S.A. pageant, to the Chronicle. Wong has also volunteered to help organize this year’s pageant, which wrapped up last week with a coronation ball at the Hyatt Regency hotel.
Parade officials heavily marketed this year's promenade down SF's Chinatown, the parade itself known for attracting tens of thousands of people to see the spectacle in person — with millions of more watching on television and, as of late, through livestreams. Part of that strategy to attract attendees was to make getting to and from the neighborhood easy through the Chinese New Year weekend. SFMTA announced Thursday that Muni would be offering free rides throughout the weekend, starting this past Saturday at 5 a.m. and lasting until this coming Monday at the same time; the newspaper noted that by 4 p.m. yesterday, transbay BART trains had standing room only.
Local culture notables like Sister Roma were seen participating in the Alaska Airlines-sponsored parade, the self-knighted "most photographed nun in the world" pictured wearing her iconic feathered headpiece bright with red plumage to honor the Year of the Tiger. San Francisco City supervisors Matt Haney, Dean Preston, and Aaron Peskin — who helped organize and push for this weekend's free Muni services — were also in attendance; Mayor Breed was photographed riding in the back of a vintage convertible car and taking on certain "MC duties" during the parade.
Happy kids, SF edition: Mayor @LondonBreed takes the MC duties at the #ChineseNewYearParade and says hi to passing elementary school kids pic.twitter.com/FvdMDR361A— Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez (@FitzTheReporter) February 20, 2022
This year's Chinese New Year Parade symbolized a myriad of things. It was a return of one of SF's most celebrated festivities; the 2022 parade existed as a culminating example of resilience (in all manner of connotations) seen over the past two years; it, too, was a place where people could put on their "happiest faces."
Thank you to the hardworking volunteers BTS last night who helped coordinate our 1st @chineseparade back from the pandemic. The streets were packed, the energy was high and everyone looked so happy to be together. Special shout-out to the Yick Wo pandas in their tiger costumes!🐯 pic.twitter.com/l2f2adFxYt— Aaron Peskin (@AaronPeskin) February 20, 2022
“We’re all putting on our happiest faces to welcome in the new year because it’s been a long time,” said Anni Chung, CEO of Self-Help for the Elderly, an organization that serves mostly immigrant Asian seniors, to the Chronicle before mentioning that COVID-19 isn't going anywhere, any time soon — “it’s time to get over the pandemic, the pandemic, the pandemic.”
If you didn't find yourself amid yesterday's chromatic regalia and dancing dragons, here are images (and a few videos) of this 2022's Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco to peruse.
San Francisco chinese new year parade 💃 pic.twitter.com/RDxwPEfpFL— nampeyo 📌 (@pavoceIIus_) February 20, 2022
Highlight for the 2022 Chinese New Year’s Parade in San Francisco😊💕🌁🌁 pic.twitter.com/zthl3RuGvd— M-san (@meguriai05) February 20, 2022
Wrapping Saturday’s FREE MUNI by watching the Chinese New Year Parade. I normally avoid it but since it’s been a couple years, it’s nice to see it back. #chinesenewyearparade #sfmuni #SanFrancisco pic.twitter.com/s91fxNuYhh— Transit Equity for TL, SoMa, & all of SF (@TransitEquitySF) February 20, 2022
Joyful celebration in San Francisco tonight. I've been coming to the Chinese New Year's parade for 15+ years but this was the first time it made me cry. Our community and mayor @LondonBreed have worked so hard to stay safe in the pandemic. pic.twitter.com/j81qbVgDOP— Emily F. Peters (@EmilyFPeters) February 20, 2022
And SF Chinese New Year Parade begins! pic.twitter.com/u8b6D21TnK— Jeffrey Tumlin 🏳️🌈 (@jeffreytumlin) February 9, 2020
SF’s Chinese New Year Parade came back! 🐉🧨 pic.twitter.com/nmZHbWWkkP— Kristin Lipska (@snaile) February 20, 2022
Related: Meet the Tiger Floats of the 2022 SF Lunar New Year Festival and Parade
Photo: Instagram via @remingtonralph