Chúc mừng năm mới! Happy New Year!
The world at large celebrated New Year’s Day on January 1, but many Asian communities, including my family, will celebrate Lunar New Year on January 22. My husband and his family are Vietnamese, so we call this day and its celebrations Tết.
To celebrate, my children will dress in traditional garments called áo dàis, which are flowing, tunic-like shirts over white pants. They will then greet their grandparents and any older relatives in Vietnamese: Chúc mừng năm mới! We will also present the grandparents with fruit, which will then go on a small altar in the house. After these well-wishes, my kids and their cousins will be gifted with lucky red envelopes called lì xì. Everyone wants lì xì– those envelopes have money inside! Traditionally, they will have lucky two-dollar bills.
But if you want to celebrate Lunar New Year with your own family, where can you go and what can you do?
January 13-15, 2023
St. Agnes Lȇ Thị Thành Church in Marrero will hold a festival to celebrate the new year, including traditional lion dances! (Fun fact: we often think we are watching “dragon dances,” but you can tell dragons apart from lions by the number of feet beneath the costumes. Lions only have four feet, but dragons have many!) My family hasn’t been to this festival, but we hear it’s fun!
Mary, Queen of Vietnam in New Orleans East will hold their usual large festival. This is the one my family attends. It is FREE to attend, but you definitely want to bring your wallet for all the delicious Vietnamese food stalls! You’ll find familiar favorites like phở (bone broth soup with noodles and meat) and bánh mì thịt (French bread sandwiches with different meats), but you can also try other dishes like cà ri dê (goat curry) and more! Keep an eye out for the fun green waffles– a kid favorite!
There are also plenty of school fair and carnival-style games for kids to play, not to mention bounce houses and a small train to ride around the grounds. The festival also features Vietnamese singers and music along with other local bands. Don’t forget to check out the Vietnamese culture exhibit found right by the entrance to the fair!
January 22nd is the first day of the Lunar New Year, and if you can’t make it out to any of the festivals, you can celebrate at home, too.
The Chinese and Vietnamese Lunar New Years normally recognize the same Zodiac animals– but not this year! In Chinese customs, this will be the Year of the Rabbit, which is probably more widely recognized. But in Vietnamese tradition, this will be the Year of the Cat!
To celebrate at home, you and your child can:
- Make cat and/or rabbit masks out of paper plates
- Research the Zodiac traits of cats and/or rabbits
- Wear the lucky color red
- Color red envelopes with your child and gift them with a dollar
- Pop firework “snappers” for festive fun