Celebration in San Francisco's Chinatown as the community welcomes the year of the pig

The start of the Lunar New Year is Tuesday, February 5.

The Bay Area's Chinese and Vietnamese communities are preparing for family celebrations.

On Monday night, it was raining on and off but there were people out in San Francisco's Chinatown setting off firecrackers well into the night.

Around 5:30pm, there was a lion dance to celebrate the installation of new lanterns along Ross Alley, and to usher in the year of the pig.

"Born in the year of the pig meaning they're very honest and frank, compassionate and hardworking," says Cathie Lam with the Chinatown Community Development Center.

The pig is the last of twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac.

Lam says she was born in the year of the pig. She showed KTVU's Amber Lee the Chinese red envelopes that adults give to relatives and children.

On Monday night, there was the last minute scramble to buy sweets, flowers and produce. They are symbols of prosperity and good luck.

Pastry chef Hanna Zhang at iCafe says she has been working long hours the past ten days making one hundred special seasonal cakes per day including turnip cakes because they are in high demand.

She proudly says she uses quality ingredients.

"Chinese style sausage, Chinese style bacon mixed inside...it's really yummy," says Zhang.

Food and family are the focus of the celebration.

At Yuet Lee Seafood Restaurant, owner Sam Yu prepares a vegetarian dish made with various ingredients including tofu, mushroom and greens. It's served on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

"Clear your mind...everything dirty, go away. Something new come in," says Yu.

Oysters are among the many dishes served. It symbolizes all things good.

The dining table should be filled with an abundance of food.

At the end of business day on the last day of the year, merchants set off fire crackers to chase away the evil spirits.

"The bad things, the no-good things are all gone. Start the new year. Everything starts new," says Nobo Chiu, owner of iCafe.

Many Chinese-owned businesses will be closed Tuesday, Chinese New Year Day. It's a a day for spending time with the family. Gung hay fat choy. Wishing everyone a Happy Year of the Pig!

KTVU Reporter Amber Lee contrinbuted to this report.