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The City Journals

Lunar New Year brings together multiple generations

Mar 13, 2018 05:02PM ● By Keyra Kristoffersen

Students and members of the community joined together to celebrate the traditional Vietnamese Lunar New Year. (Dalton Bach)

The Vietnamese-American Student Association at the University of Utah sought to bridge the gap between generations by holding a celebration of the traditional Lunar New Year at the Miss Saigon Reception Center in West Valley on Feb. 3. 

“What we try to do as an organization is try to appreciate and commemorate the culture that we have as Vietnamese-Americans,” said Ahn Cao, the president of VASA this year. “We work really closely with the Vietnamese Community of Utah which is made up of a lot of the elders of our community.”

One of the common problems, Cao said, is the communication barrier that exists between the older and younger generation and VASA’s goal is to bridge that gap by bringing the community together in traditional celebration. 

Through the work of VASA’s members, sponsors from the community of Vietnamese and Asian stores provided raffle prizes as well as food such as Vietnamese woven vermicelli and stir fry noodles for a menu that guests could order from restaurant style. 

“We had a lot of generous donations from restaurants around the valley,” said Cao. 

The Miss Saigon Reception Center had been utilized for years for various community events put on by the Vietnamese Community of Utah, so VASA wanted to use a place familiar to the older attendees as well as offer a space that could accommodate the number of people anticipated and provide a stage area for the performers. 

“In Vietnam, this is one of the biggest holidays that we have in our culture,” said Cao. “We just really wanted to make it super fun and commemorate how Vietnamese traditionally celebrate Lunar New Year.”

Performers from the community and schools entertained the crowd with traditional lion dancing, Tycho drumming and singing by K-Pop group, X-Moment, Hana, and Kelly Le, a local high school student. The F.P.S Dance Crew performed along with members of VASA who danced a traditional co-ed Vietnamese dance with umbrellas and wearing Ao Dai. Other cultural performances and games showcased the talents of the participants like face painting, crafts and games such as lover’s leap. With over 450 guests, this was the largest Lunar New Year event that VASA has put on. 

VASA began planning the Lunar New Year celebration in May of 2017 with fundraisers like a car wash and seeking sponsors over the summer. Beside getting involved in the community and Lunar New Year, VASA also teams up to hold the Lunar Moon Festival in October at Sugar House Park. When the sun goes down, participants hold lanterns and follow lion dancers around the lake. 

“It’s one of my favorite events ever since I was a little kid, so it was really cool to be part of the planning process,” said Cao. 

The Lunar New Year, also known as Tet, tradition is based on the lunar calendar, which the Vietnamese followed before switching to the solar calendar. Families come together to honor ancestors by preparing vegetarian dishes and lighting incense as offerings. Buddhists would go to the temple or pagoda to pray and after midnight, there would be firecrackers and dancing while individuals would receive a Li Xi bag, or red envelope, that contained a coin and a fortune which could be deciphered by the monk to help wish and bring luck for loved ones in the new year. Cao likens it to Americans celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Eve at the same time though it’s the celebration of the beginning of spring. 

“In times like these where it is traditional to just go all out and have these huge celebrations for Tet, then I think it’s a great opportunity for Vietnamese-Americans to come together to be a part of this,” said Cao.

Cao is also involved in the Miss Vietnam Pageant, held every other year at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center and featured contestants in evening wear and traditional dress.

“You don’t have to be Vietnamese to appreciate the culture and that’s the message that we wanted to convey,” said Cao.