Welcoming Lunar New Year 4716

The Academy was honored to be part of San Francisco’s Chinese New Year festival and parade


The Academy’s presence was felt throughout the Lunar New Year celebration, as flags and Chinese lions featured the school’s name and logo. Photo by Bob Toy.

The city of San Francisco and the Chinese Chamber of Commerce welcomed another Lunar New Year on Friday, Feb. 16, ringing in the Year of the Dog with hundreds gathered at Chinatown’s Portsmouth Square. 

And there was much to be celebrated: A new year filled with good fortune and health; the eye-dotting of the new 288-foot golden dragon; honoring the presence of city officials, including Mayor Mark Farrell, former-Mayor Willie Brown, Board of Supervisors members London Breed and Jane Kim, Chamber of Commerce partners Henry Huey (president of Chinese Benevolent Association) and Ambassador Luo Linquan (consul general of the People’s Republic of China in San Francisco) and Academy of Art University President Dr. Elisa Stephens. 

Harlan Wong, director of Chinese New Year Festival and Parade, said inviting Dr. Stephens as a special guest to the ceremony is merely a thank you for the Academy’s longstanding involvement with the Chinese New Year festivities. 

“She’s such a huge supporter of the San Francisco community, as well as the Chinese Chamber of Commerce,” he said, revealing that Dr. Stephens gave Wong permission to store the festival floats at the Academy’s 2250 Jerrold warehouse. “She’s always involved with our fundraising and she’s a big contributor to our festival.”

The Academy’s presence was seen throughout the First Day celebration and continued throughout the week-long festivities. The Golden Dragon was accompanied by volunteers waving banners with the school’s logo and the lion heads had the university’s name embroidered on the collar. In addition to the annual collaborative float, Dr. Stephens served as judge for the Miss Chinatown beauty pageant.


The Chinese lions gearing up for the start of Lunar New Year. Photo by Bob Toy.


People dressed as Chinese deities interacted with the crowd and took photos with families. Photo by Bob Toy.

“The Chinese have given so much to San Francisco and have been a part of the city since its inception. I was honored and proud to share the stage with Mayor Farrell, Mayor Brown and Supervisor Breed in support of Chinese New Year,” Dr. Stephens said. “My family and I have a great deal of respect for Chinese culture and tradition in San Francisco.”

Chinese New Year in San Francisco is largely a community event and has been through its 160-year tradition with the city. This Year of the Dog marks the Chinese Lunar Calendar 4716, according to Huey. Opening the celebration were kids from the Chinatown Community Children’s Center wearing puppy costumes. Stilt walkers and people dressed as Chinese deities floated throughout the square and took photos with families. 

The eye-dotting ceremony, a ritual done to awaken the spirit of the new dragon before it parades through the streets, was conducted with Mayors Farrell and Brown doing the honor of dabbing red paint on the eyes and along the nose of the dragon structure. The celebration proceeded down to Kearny Street, in front of the San Francisco Hilton Hotel and Chinese Culture Center, concluding the first new year day with a stream of firecrackers. 

“This is our version of China, the culture, in every aspect of what happens in the Chinese community in San Francisco reveals itself so dramatically in the day and the time we celebrate the New Year,” Mayor Brown told the crowd. “I am just delighted on a regular basis to be invited.”