Chinese Year of the Snake

Get ready to welcome the Chinese Year of the Snake! On Sunday, February 10, it will be the new moon of the first lunar month of 2013, otherwise known as the year 4711 on the Chinese calendar. Chinese New Year traditions include paying all debts and cleaning your house before the year begins, and displaying and eating lucky foods such as oranges and tangerines.

Chinese food has always been popular with natives and tourists. Visitors to San Francisco often ask where to go to get a real Chinese meal. In the late 1960s, the most elegant and authentic Chinese restaurant in San Francisco was the Mandarin that opened in 1968 at Ghirardelli Square. Restaurant founder Cecilia Chiang is credited with introducing authentic Chinese cuisine to the United States. She will receive a lifetime achievement award from the James Beard Foundation in May in New York City.

Cecilia lives across the Golden Gate Bridge from The City and is still teaching friends how to cook. I was lucky to be included in a group that watched her prepare a meal at a mutual friend’s home. And recently, I attended her 93rd birthday party.
Here is a clip of Cecilia as the “Harmony and Bliss 2011 Honoree” of the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco.

San Francisco will hold many traditional Chinese New Year celebrations, such as crowning Miss Chinatown on February 16 and inviting everyone to the downtown parade on February 23. A less known celebration is a family day on February 17 at the San Francisco Zoo. The activities include, “… a self-guided Zodiac tour through the Zoo. This fun-filled scavenger hunt adventure will lead guests to the animals found on the Chinese calendar. Plus, everyone who completes the Zodiac tour will receive a lucky red envelope with a surprise inside.” Visitors with a birth date in the Year of the Snake (1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001 and 2013) will receive free Zoo admission.

In Cantonese, you can offer “best wishes and congratulations, have a prosperous and good year,” by saying …

Gung Hay Fat Choy!