[Courtesy of Yulia/Adobe]

Celebrating Tet Fest in New Orleans

07:00 February 14, 2024
By: Arielle Gonzales

Enter the Dragon

New Orleans is renowned for its vibrant Mardi Gras, soulful jazz music, and delectable Creole cuisine; however, amidst these well-known festivities, there is one event that truly showcases the city's diversity and spirit: Tết Fest, New Orleans East's Vietnamese New Year celebration from February 16-18 at Mary Queen of Vietnam Church.

Tết Fest offers an immersive experience of Vietnamese traditions, mouthwatering cuisine, and captivating performances. From the mesmerizing dragon dances and the enticing aromas of traditional dishes to absolutely beautiful firework displays, this celebration seamlessly weaves together Vietnamese and New Orleans culture, making it an unmissable experience.

[Erwan Hesry, Unsplash]

Year after year, the Lunar New Year is celebrated across Vietnam, Japan, China, and other parts of East and Southeast Asia. Every year is dedicated to one of the 12 zodiac animals, which were derived from cycles of the Chinese calendar. 2024 is the year of the Dragon, which symbolizes prosperity and power and is regarded as the "emperor" in Vietnamese culture. This year's official Lunar New Year is on February 10.

People from different communities in New Orleans will come together to explore various food options and crafts during the Tết Fest, which is held every year at Mary Queen of Vietnam Church at 14001 Dwyer Blvd. in New Orleans East. This festival transforms the Emerald Gateway of New Orleans into a grand celebration, bridging the gap between the Vietnamese community and the city at large. The inclusivity and diversity in this cultural tapestry takes center stage, representing the essence of New Orleans.

NOLA's Vietnamese Community

This festival is a free admission celebration of the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, which is considered the most important holiday in Vietnamese culture. Tết generally takes place in late January or early February and signifies the onset of spring. It is a time when families come together, exchange good wishes, and pay homage to their ancestors. During the New Year celebrations, religious ceremonies, quality family time, and purification rituals are carried out to cleanse away the old year's bad luck and welcome the new year afresh.

The Vietnamese American community in New Orleans, along with the church, primarily organize and host the festival. Different members of the community, such as local Vietnamese organizations, also lend their support to the festival.

The Vietnamese community has a significant presence in New Orleans, with a history that dates back several decades. Many Vietnamese immigrants settled in New Orleans after the Vietnam War in the 1970s, seeking refuge and a new start. Over time, the community grew and established its cultural institutions, including churches, temples, businesses, and community centers.

What to Enjoy at Tet

[Mick Haupt, Unsplash]

Tết Fest is an opportunity for the Vietnamese community in New Orleans to come together and showcase their rich heritage and traditions. One of the festival's most captivating highlights is the dragon dance, a traditional performance where skilled dancers maneuver an intricately designed dragon puppet. The sinuous movements of the puppet symbolize the expulsion of evil spirits and the arrival of good fortune. The rhythmic beats of accompanying drums and cymbals electrify the atmosphere, spreading excitement throughout the festival grounds.

Beyond the dragon dance, Tết Fest showcases a diverse range of Vietnamese performances, including music, martial arts, and theater. These artistic displays captivate the audience, transporting them to the distant lands of Vietnam. Local Vietnamese artists demonstrate their talents, fostering unity and appreciation for Vietnam's cultural heritage.

Of course, no Tết Fest would be incomplete without the tantalizing aromas and flavors of traditional Vietnamese cuisine. The festival features vibrant food vendors offering a myriad of dishes that tempt visitors and introduce them to Vietnam's unique flavors. From the fragrant phở and crispy bánh mì sandwiches to delicate spring rolls and savory rice cakes, the culinary delights at Tết Fest are an unforgettable feast for the senses. For those eager to explore Vietnamese cuisine further, cooking demonstrations and workshops provide valuable insights into the art of Vietnamese cooking.

Tết Fest goes beyond performances and food, providing a range of interactive activities suitable for festival-goers of all ages. Traditional arts and crafts workshops, games, and competitions offer entertainment and educational opportunities. Participants can try their hand at calligraphy, learn the ancient art of origami, or engage in a friendly game of shuttlecock kicking. These interactive experiences foster a sense of community and active participation in the celebration of Tết Fest.

As the Emerald Gateway between cultures, Tết Fest in New Orleans amplifies the city's welcoming and inclusive nature. The festival creates a space for cultural dialogue and exchange through vibrant displays of Vietnamese traditions and customs. It is an occasion that unites individuals from diverse backgrounds, transcending barriers and embracing the joy and unity of celebration.

Join in at Tết Fest in New Orleans and experience the Emerald Gateway between cultures. This festival celebrates the city's inclusive and warm-hearted nature by bringing people from all walks of life together to immerse themselves in a kaleidoscope of Vietnamese traditions and customs. It provides a unique opportunity for cultural dialogue, exchange, and shared experiences of celebration and unity. Whether you are a resident of the Big Easy or just passing through the city, go experience and have a great time at this year's Tết Fest. Happy New Year!

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