My First Chinese New Year

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My First Chinese New Year

by Emily Tabor

As the current Southwest Airlines® partnership director for the San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade and Festival, I can’t help but feel sad that this event, like many over the past year, will look different. However, one of the biggest joys in this experience is working through the changes with the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. Behind the scenes, the Chamber works tirelessly to bring the celebration to life in a new way each year, and this year is truly no exception. Looking back at my first parade to now, so much has changed, yet so much stayed the same. 

At my first parade, I was astounded by the electric energy of downtown San Francisco as the sun went down. All different types of people lined the parade route to look at the beautiful floats, marching bands, dance troupes, and dragons. It was my first time walking in the parade, and honestly my first true parade experience ever. I had watched countless parades over the years on T.V., but nothing compared to the larger-than-life floats decked out with lights, color, and even moving parts rolling down the streets crowed with thousands of people waving. I loved walking and waving to strangers that felt like friends, who were there for the very same purpose I was: to celebrate, to be in awe, and to be in community. 

Community and meaning are two words that best describe the Chinese New Year Parade and Festival to me. The rich culture of Chinatown in San Francisco was captivating – it felt as though I was at the Super Bowl with its energy, yet it also felt like a neighborhood block party where everyone there is connected. I observed each float and asked questions about the intentions behind each design. To my delight, everything had a special and specific meaning. In a year like 2020, when meaning and purpose are hard to grasp, community and tradition can give us strong roots to survive hard things. 

Though I am saddened we cannot come together in-person to observe the Chinese New Year Parade tradition in 2021, I am thankful that the great people at the Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Festival have created this online space for us to continue to connect with such a special event. Please share your story, visit the floats on display, and celebrate safely. Southwest Airlines® is proud to be a part of a cherished tradition in San Francisco. While we may not meet in the streets of San Francisco this year, we hope to meet you in the skies whenever you are ready for your next travel adventure. Gung Hay Fat Choy!