by : Rey Andres
Easily one of the top grossers in Orange County events, especially among the Vietnamese community, the Tet Festival has a new venue for its many attractions for the expected thousands of visitors.
Many who have enjoyed the largest Tet Festival in the U.S. will miss the street ambiance at its new site at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa located many miles from Garden Grove that has been similarly made famous for the street extravaganza where in the span of three days hundreds of booths and family-centered activities have attracted visitors from adjoining cities for more than a decade. The Garden Grove Park event hosted by the Union of Vietnamese Students Association had been forced into its new site when Garden Grove officials “demanded more to host the event” that forced the group to seek for another venue for the traditional celebration.
In year of the horse of the Chinese lunar calendar, the Tet Festival strongly identified with the Vietnam community has literally galloped in the new site forced by circumstances. Though now really close to where it started, the venue is “still the best option” according to the organizers who hope the advantages of the new site would lure more visitors.
The festival in the last 11 years has cost the City of Garden Grove more than $1.2 million. It has been claimed to be “the largest event of its kind outside Vietnam” and is the annual favorite of the Little Saigon community that spans over four cities in the center of Orange County.
Tet or Vietnamese New Year, is the most important celebration of the Vietnamese celebrated on the same day as Chinese New Year. It takes place from the first day of the first month of the Vietnamese calendar in late January or early February. Vietnamese prepare for the holiday cooking special food and doing general house cleaning . It is also a visitation day on the first day of the new year and a day dedicated for ancestral worship, gift giving of lucky money to the children and the elderly and a good day to open a business.
Like the Filipinos’ penchant for celebration, the Tet is also an occasion for pilgrims and family reunions. Vietnamese visit their relatives and temples and forget about the troubles of the past year and hope for a better year. Tet is considered to be the first day of spring festival.
Preparations for Tet begin one or two weeks before the actual celebration and the general atmosphere is one of shopping and decorating the home. People try to pay off debts to be debt-free for a clean slate for the new year. Children are not missed out in the frenzy with new clothes to wear for the event. Shops are closed during Tet so people stock up on supplies as much as they could.
The first day of Tet is reserved for the nuclear family. The Vietnamese believe that the first visitor a family receives in the year determines their fortune for the entire year and people never enter any house on the first day without being invited first.
Vietnamese families usually have a family altar, to show respect to their ancestors. This is thoroughly cleaned and a tray of new offerings of five different fruits are placed.