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Fireworks © Stefan Ritt/Wikipedia
Fireworks © Stefan Ritt/Wikipedia

How To Celebrate 6 International Holidays In San Francisco

Picture of Courtney Holcomb
Updated: 26 September 2016
Known for its diverse international population and colorful cultural celebrations, San Francisco is the perfect place to celebrate a number of holidays from around the world. From Japantown’s Cherry Blossom Festival to the annual Chinese New Year Parade, you’ll be sure to find a festive way to celebrate all of your favorite holidays around the city.

Chinese New Year

Every year, Southwest Airlines and the Chinese Chamber of Commerce host San Francisco’s annual Chinese New Year Parade. This tradition has been around since the 1860s and began as a way to educate the local community about Chinese culture; today, it has grown to be named one of the IFEA’s top ten parades in the world. This illuminated parade celebrates the Lunar New Year with elaborate floats, decadent costumes, crackling firecrackers and ferocious lions. Miss Chinatown and her court will be featured in the parade along with a 268 foot Golden Dragon held up by over 100 people.

Bastille Day

San Franciscan’s can find friends with whom to celebrate Bastille Day at Belden Place, an alley in San Francisco’s Financial District known for its European cuisine and ambiance, often referred to as San Francisco’s French Quarter. Several of the alley’s restaurants participate in the July 14th celebration, decorating the alley with red, white and blue streamers and balloons. The celebration typically starts around 5 p.m., so pop in for an evening filled with all things French, especially food and drinks.

Cherry Blossom Festival

For almost 50 years, the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival has been celebrated in San Francisco, bringing over 200,000 people to the Japantown neighborhood each spring. This celebration is one of the biggest celebrations of Japanese traditions in California, hosting food and arts vendors, cultural performances, martial arts, live music and a grand parade. The parade runs from City Hall to Japantown, and the rest of the festivities take place on Post Street between Laguna and Fillmore. The event is free and open to the public but there are some special events that require tickets.

Cinco de Mayo

Every May, Mission Neighborhood Centers puts together San Francisco’s Cinco de Mayo celebration. The celebration takes place on Valencia Street between 21st and 24th Streets, bringing together families from around the Bay Area to celebrate Mexican and Latin American cultures. Mariachi, salsa, and Latin hip-hop music is played live while dozens of vendors provide authentic foods and beautiful arts and crafts. This alcohol-free event is completely family friendly, featuring a kid’s zone with craft activities, a petting zoo and magic tricks for children to enjoy.

Diwali

Known as the ‘festival of lights,’ Diwali is a Hindu holiday that is celebrated every autumn. San Francisco’s Diwali celebration is hosted by Brahma Kumaris, an international organization with a meditation center in San Francisco. The festival ‘envisions the dawn of the era of peace, happiness and prosperity,’ featuring a variety of cultural performances, live music, meditation workshops, spiritual insights and a vegetarian dinner. Taking place at the Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center, you must register in advance to attend this event.

St. Patrick’s Day

For over 150 years, San Francisco has been hosting a St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival each March that draws in around 100,000 people, making it the largest event that celebrates Irish history and culture on the west coast. The event features a large parade with over 100 floats in addition to Irish dancers and bands, running from Market and 2nd Street to Civic Center Plaza. Later in the evening there is a St. Patrick’s Day Block Party hosted on Front Street between California and Sacramento Street that features live music, green beer and a special menu including corned beef, cabbage, shepherd’s pie and Irish stew.

By Courtney Holcomb