SAN FRANCISCO - The Lunar New Year begins on Sunday and San Francisco is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a new tradition that was started during the pandemic.
In San Francisco's Union Square, a painted sculpture in the shape of a rabbit has replaced the painted heart sculpture at the corner of Geary and Powell Street.
It's one of five locations in the city where you might find yourself bumping into a bunny statue, each sponsored by a local company and painted by a local artist.
"The meaning behind the rabbit is peaceful, harmonious, good luck, so we really tried to embody that this year," said Stephanie Mufson, an artist and owner of The Parade Guys.
Mufson is helping to coordinate the "Rabbits on Parade" event and the annual Alaska Airlines Feb. 4th Lunar New Year Parade.
"We wanted them to be larger than life and something that people can enjoy interacting with, taking pictures with," said Mufson.
Mufson says the idea for painted statues began two years ago when the parade was canceled due to the pandemic.
"Turned out to become this really beautiful way of integrating the art into the community and having a way for artists to have another voice," said Mufson.
Each rabbit was cast in fiberglass from an original rabbit mold at the parade warehouse.
Mufson's rabbit greets riders at the new Chinatown subway station. It's a sky blue color, painted for her sponsor, the Sky River Casino.
"I felt it was a really poetic name," said Mufson, "Also we had quite a bit of rain...and it was actually raining endlessly while I was painting, so I felt I was really channeling the water."
Outside Chase Center, another rabbit waits, ready for the Warriors' Lunar New Year celebration set for Saturday.
The bunny named "Bravery" represents speed, strength and good fortune for the team, according to the Chinese artist Yiyang Deng who painted it.
"The clouds have the meaning of happiness," said Deng, "Bamboo grows very fast and is very strong and is very straight. "
Deng says the holiday has deep meaning for him and many others far from home.
"New Year's to me is the family time, the warm feeling," said Deng, who adds that he was glad to share photos of his rabbit sculpture with his family, since he won't be able to return to China this year.
Artist Robin Zhao helped paint the Lucky Supermarket Rabbit that was placed at Lakeshore Plaza and designed by artist Alli Lowe.
Zhao also designed the rabbit sculpture at Union Square.
"I used cherry blossoms also for luck and peace, and some coins because Chinese people love money and who doesn't like wealth for the New Year, right?" said Zhao.
Those wishes and symbols of wealth, good luck, and happiness, are connections to traditions she and many others hold close to the heart.
"Chinese New Year to me is kind of like a welcome back home to where you were born," said Zhao, "It's kind of like a celebration tying me... Chinese-American back into my Chinese culture," said Zhao.
The rabbits will be on display until Feb. 5 and then they'll be auctioned off. Organizers will present the funds to four non-profits in the community, and hope the proceeds will bring prosperity to them throughout the year.
For more information on the Rabbits on Parade, check out their website and photo contest. There's a photo contest so if you post photos and add the hashtag #rabbitsonparade or tag @chineseparade you might win a prize.
Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU. Email Jana at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or ktvu.com.