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  • Writer's pictureKathy Chin Leong

Get Ready for Year of the Dragon

Bruce Lee. Martin Luther King Jr. John Lennon.  The martial arts icon, civil rights leader, and legendary musician were all dragon babies who exemplified dragon traits of charisma, intelligence, confidence, and greatness.  Of all the animals listed on the Chinese zodiac, this beast holds supreme ranking. After all, doesn’t everyone want to be associated with power, extreme talent, and wisdom?  However, dragons are also considered opportunistic, relentless, and aggressive. Russian dictator, Vladmir Putin (born 1952), by the way, is a dragon. And so was the late crime boss, John Gotti,  born in 1940.

The esteemed and  feared dragon happens to be the only mythical beast on the roster.  Just like human beings, the celestial animals also possess positive and negative characteristics.  Consider last’s years animal, the rabbit. While calm and thoughtful, the rabbit is considered to be too sensitive and anxious. And the ox, while honest and true is known for being stubborn and violent when pushed too far.

Meanwhile, the dragon is considered so auspicious and lucky that many couples center their birth plans on the dragon year, hoping their child will have a leg up on becoming the next leader of the free world.   So would-be dragon parents, you have from Feb. 10, 2024 and January 28, 2025 to produce a progeny. Since the creatures cycle through every 12 years, you will have to wait until 2036 for another dragon. Previous years of the dragon include 1940, 1952, 1964, 1988, 2000, and 2012.

Do note that not all dragons are created equal. This is the year of the wood dragon.  The twelve zodiac animals are paired with a rotating sequence of five elements: metal, wood, water, fire, and earth with associated characteristics.  Hence, the wood dragon is said to be full of vitality, creativity energy and drive. These folks are innovators,  dreamers and doers at the same time. Not only that, wood dragons are, according to tradition, perfectionists and persistent which may or may not be a good thing in social situations. When 2036 comes around, we will be presented with the year of the metal dragon, associated with unpredictability and mood swings.

Now that you are familiar with this year’s zodiac symbol, get ready to celebrate. Chinese New Year’s Day, also known as Lunar New Year for many Asian cultures, is February 10, and lasts for 15 days, ending February 25.  On the eve of the new year, families gather for a feast with significant foods that symbolize wealth, health, and fortune.  And on the last day, families gather again to close out the festivities and wish one another well.

In San Francisco’s Chinatown and Japantown, dragon figurines, posters, and dragon motifs on giftware are populating boutiques and gift shops.   Chinese restaurants everywhere will definitely have their Chinese New Year’s banquet menu ready for a family-and-friends feast. 

Very soon, thanks to the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, large dragon statues with various designs will be roaring into San Francisco.  These zodiac animals, designed to honor the holiday, are becoming a San Francisco tradition. Two years ago, oxen painted by selected artists appeared for the first time.  Last year, five larger-than-life rabbits graced the city streets. Non-Asian enterprises are also getting into the act.  Starbucks sells an artistic Lunar New Year gift card printed with the dragon. Costco, which also hawks moon cakes for the Autumn Moon Festival, now provides red Chinese New Year dragon paper plates and napkins through its online store. 

Meanwhile, on Saturday, February 24, at exactly 5:15 p.m. the 1.3 mile Chinese New Year Parade, billed as the largest night parade in the world, will be held in San Francisco’s Chinatown. The star of the 2.5 hour show will be the illuminated, 200-foot long dragon held up by more than 100 dancers.  And, all of Chinatown’s shopkeepers are hoping that the estimated half million spectators, some who come annually, will return for the biggest event of the Chinese calendar year.

Bay Area cities, neighborhoods, and organizations of every ilk are planting seeds of excitement for the Year of the Dragon. The San Francisco Symphony will host a Chinese New Year concert at Davies Symphony Hall highlighting works by Asian composers. San Francisco’s Richmond district will offer “A Taste of The Richmond” Lunar New year festival at its community center in early February. The list goes on for celebrations held in Livermore’s Bankhead Plaza, Cupertino Quinlan Community Center, the San Jose Museum of Art, and a seemingly endless array of locations with something for everyone.

Indeed, Lunar New Year is now considered so important that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 2596 in September 2022, making it a state holiday.  “I am immensely proud of the richness of diversity and backgrounds represented in our state,” he said. 

There’s no reason to suffer the post-holiday blues. The Year of the Dragon is right around the corner, and all can celebrate. Gung hay fat choy, everyone!  Happy New Year!


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