Tens of thousands of local residents and foreign visitors packed the narrow alleys of Chinatown in downtown San Francisco to join an annual mini-parade that started the official celebrations of Chinese Lunar New Year.
The parade, which began at historic St. Mary's Square in Chinatown, marched through the center of Chinatown, as kids and young students in ancient Chinese-style costumes, lion dancers, costumed stilt walkers, and drummers danced merrily in the procession to create a joyful atmosphere of festivity for people on both sides of the street.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed, California Senator Scott Wiener and other city officials walked in front of the procession, waving to Chinatown residents and tourists with New Year's greetings.
Speaking on a stage at the destination of the mini-parade, Breed expressed greetings of New Year and warm welcome to Chinatown residents and visitors that came to share the joy and good luck brought by the upcoming Chinese lunar New Year of the Pig, which falls on Feb 5.
She called San Francisco as an "incredible city" because of its diversity, rich history and the Chinese community.
A visitor from Holland, who identified himself as Aard, said he felt amazed to be part of the celebrations. "We also have a Chinese community in Holland, but many people are only exploring Chinese restaurants," he said.
"Here in San Francisco, the people are living together and so I think that's better to have a community like this," Aard said, adding that the celebrations of the Chinese New Year are more popular in the United States than in Europe.
At a stand in the Market Street fair, Aard bought some souvenirs that bear Chinese characters with meanings of "Safe and Sound." "I want to bring them home," he said.
The mini-parade is a prelude to a major Chinatown celebration of the Lunar New Year with a more spectacular grand parade in San Francisco that has a history of more than 100 years. It will be held later this month.
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