Lunar Festival Brings Vietnam to Arizona

By: Guest Writers Jasmine Pham, David J. Roman, and Vince Vu

Nghia (Vince) Vu (MBA ’15, Vietnam) recalled with a smile how Ho Chi Minh City comes alive for the Tet Nguyen Dan festival, vibrant horticultural displays everywhere along “Flower Street” for three weeks. He and Tra (Jasmine) Pham (MBA ’15, Vietnam) are both the first-year Thunderbird MBA candidates from Vietnam who coordinated a group of T-birds to attend Phoenix’s own edition of the lunar new year celebration this past Saturday.

Photo Courtesy of Authors
Photo Courtesy of Authors

The event was held from 2:00-10:00 PM at Phoenix College on February 14 and featured a variety of speakers, musicians, dancers, activities, and food.  Many there told me how their small community of Vietnamese (~2,000 people) here in Phoenix could not replicate the incredible energy and color of the festival in Vietnam, yet they were glad to have the opportunity to enjoy a taste of home.

Photo Courtesy of Authors
Photo Courtesy of Authors

Pham agreed, “Yeah, the real Vietnam is much more fantastic, colorful, but this is a good effort from the small community here. We appreciate that going here we can walk among Vietnamese, some in the traditional Ao Dai, speak Vietnamese and enjoy Vietnamese food and drink. It feels like home for awhile.”

Photo Courtesy of Authors
Photo Courtesy of Authors

Pham and Vu explained that people in the festival usually eat square rice cakes call Banh Chung  (which represent the earth) and circular rice cakes called Banh Tet (which represent the sky), along with watermelon and other sweets.  This food is to represent the harmony of the environment and to bring people together in community. “Before the holiday, the big family usually gathers around to make the Banh Chung and Banh Tet. Then, they gather around a huge pot put on the self-made stove of bricks and coals to cook them the whole night.

“During the 3 main days of Tet (the 1st – 3rd of January in Lunar calendar), we usually visit our relatives, teachers and friends.” Vu added that –since the theme of each festival changes to follow the zodiac sign for that year– families traditionally pose for photos together in front of the flower displays with the motifs of that year’s theme. For the 2015 festival: the goat, which bears good omen for all things artistic.

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