By Brittany Hanson/Garden Grove Journal
For one weekend every year thousands of people make a pilgrimage to Garden Grove. For three days, they leave behind freshly cleaned homes to come celebrate the Lunar New Year in Garden Grove Park.
Tet, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, is a yearly welcoming of spring. The Union of Vietnamese Student Associations of Southern California’s Tet Festival starts Friday and ends Sunday, Valentine’s Day. Because of that, the festival theme for the year is “Spring of Love.”
“Because of the Spring of Love theme, we are focusing a lot of our decorations and advertising around Valentine’s Day,” said Nick Tang, who is in charge of sponsor and vendor relations.
The festival has been going for 29 years and is entirely student organized through the UVSA.
It yearly attracts over 100,000 people and involves the volunteer work of approximately 400 students from 12 organizations. It is one of the largest Tet celebrations outside of Vietnam.
The purpose of the festival, said Tang, is to keep the Vietnamese culture alive. He said that aside from the celebrations and traditions, it is also a way for the younger generation to let the older generations know that they still value and practice traditional customs.
Some of most common traditions that are a part of Tet are a pre-spring cleaning and the giving of “lucky money” to children.
In order to usher in the spring season, houses are cleaned top to bottom to make sure there is no bad luck in them once the season arrives. Children and unmarried young adults are given red envelopes that have “lucky money,” Le Xi, in them.
Flowers are a traditional symbol of spring and are often used to decorate houses and are given as gifts. Also, new clothing is bought, such as new shoes and new dresses.
At the festival, there are many examples of traditional Vietnamese culture including flower exhibits, history, artwork and food.
The Tet Festival features a Chinese chess competition, a Vietnamese spelling bee, a children’s pageant, singing and dance performances.
Before the opening ceremonies on Saturday at 12 p.m. there is a parade that is associated with the festival, but is not organized by UVSA.
The parade starts at 9:30 a.m. at Magnolia Street and Bolsa Avenue in Westminster. It continues east on Bolsa until Bushard Street where it turns right and runs down to Bishop Place.
The Miss Vietnam of Southern California, “Hoa Khôi Liên Trường,” is also a major part of the Tet Festival. Hosted Friday at 5:30 p.m. contestants will compete to win the title for scholarships.
Contestants are judged in areas of traditional dress, dance and questions intended to educate others about modern perceptions of Vietnamese culture.
The Tet Festival is not just about recognizing Vietnamese culture, but about giving back to the community.
According to their website, the UVSA donates 50 percent of its profit from the festival back to the community.
Since 2002, UVSA has donated more than $800,000 back to more than 300 community organizations.
Garden Grove Park is located at 9301 Westminster Ave. in Garden Grove. Admission is $5 and is $4 for children under 4 feet tall.
The festival runs from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.