After a black year, large public Tet celebrations will resume – Orange County Register

For many in the Vietnamese American community, the Tet New Year celebration is – to borrow a line from a famous song – the most wonderful time of the year.

“It’s as important as the Christmas holidays,” said Westminster Councilor Tai Do of Tet. “It’s a time to wear new clothes, give gifts, prepare traditional dishes and see family and friends.”

Tet coincides with the first new moon of the year, so start dates for the week-long celebration vary. In 2022, Year of the Tiger, the Lunar New Year will run from Tuesday February 1st until the weekend.

In Orange County, Tet will be celebrated in several places. The county is home to approximately 204,000 people born in Vietnam or of Vietnamese descent, including large communities that live in Westminster, Garden Grove, Santa Ana and Fountain Valley.

As it has done to so many festivities, the coronavirus has put the kibosh on large Tet gatherings in 2021. Although this year’s celebration is something of a revival, events will unfold with caution, concern and some controversy.

In Westminster, for example, some residents unsuccessfully lobbied for the cancellation of the February 5 parade on Bolsa Avenue, saying it could spread the omicron variant.

The celebrations kicked off with the annual Flower Festival at the Asian Garden shopping center in Westminster. Beginning on January 14, the open-air market attracted thousands of people buying exotic flowers and trees to decorate their homes for the Tet holiday.

A firecracker festival will take place at noon on Tuesday, February 1, outside the mall. It will be the first of several firecracker shows in Little Saigon, including one on the same evening at the Dieu Ngu Buddhist Temple in Westminster.

“We will have traditional dishes like banana fries, bamboo soup and rice cakes,” said temple volunteer David Tran.

Most of the feast will be vegetarian. “Traditionally, to show compassion, we don’t eat meat on the first day of the New Year,” Tran said.

The event will feature music, a lion dancer, incense and prayers – all culminating with the sound of firecrackers at midnight. Families will leave with gifts in the form of red envelopes – filled not with money, as parents might give their children, but with messages of good luck.

The event at the temple is free and open to the public. About 800 people, many of them dressed in traditional costumes, are expected. Due to the coronavirus, this year’s event will be held entirely outdoors. “We will have hand sanitizer and face masks everywhere,” Tran said.

One of many Tet celebrations taking place on Saturday, Saigon’s three-hour small parade will begin at 9 a.m. with a ribbon-cutting and firecrackers.

Expected to attract around 15,000 spectators, the parade will stretch from Magnolia Avenue to Bushard Street on Bolsa Avenue in Westminster. Organizers said they would distribute face masks and hand sanitizer.

The floats will honor Vietnam War veterans, advertise small businesses and recognize elected officials. “It’s the only time we see a lot of our constituents at once,” Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do said.

The parade will also feature colorful costumes, swirling banners, dragon dancers, papier-mâché tigers and whimsical animals of all kinds.

Westminster Mayor Tri Ta said he had not decided whether he would join the parade and other big celebrations.

“This year is a unique situation due to the circumstances of Covid-19, especially the spread of Omicron,” Ta said. “Public safety is my number one priority. I will have to watch the daily update on Covid-19 (before) attending some mega-events.

Whether it’s celebrated at a festival or a small family gathering, Ta said, “Tet is a time for our community to unite, celebrate and welcome the fresh spirit of spring. with us”.

Supervisor Do will host a three-day festival Friday through Sunday, February 4-6, on the Freedom Hall lawn at Mile Square Regional Park in Fountain Valley. A firecracker ceremony, cultural performances, carnival rides, lion dances and food vendors will highlight the jamboree.

“People come from all over to Little Saigon to celebrate the New Year,” Do said. “It gives Vietnamese Americans a sense of community, a sense of identity.”

Much like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, footage of Tet events held in Orange County is broadcast “around the world,” Do added.

“Think of the happiness we bring to hundreds of thousands of people.”

The county’s largest Tet celebration will return to the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, all day Saturday and Sunday, February 5-6. Tickets are $8.

Sponsored for 40 years by the Union of Vietnamese Student Associations of Southern California, the festival at the fairgrounds will feature standard Tet dishes plus just-for-fun extras such as a children’s contest, a talents, a demonstration of martial arts and watermelon – and a pho-eating contest.

In addition to traditional Vietnamese dishes, vendors at the fair will sell lamb skewers, Korean barbecue and other types of cuisine. “It looks like the Orange County Fair,” said marketing manager Shou Jin.

Proof of vaccination or recent negative COVID test will be required at the door. COVID tests will also be carried out on site.

“We are a non-profit organization made up of students and young professionals,” Jin said. “All of our income goes back into the community.

“Our goal is to give people who have left Vietnam a sense of belonging, as well as share our culture with everyone.”

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