San Jose Vietnamese Community Celebrates the New Year, Acknowledges the Past
Drums beat and cymbals crashed at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds on February 2 and 3 for a celebration with ancient roots.
It was the annual Vietnamese Tet festival, marking the impending beginning of the Lunar New Year, the most important holiday of the year for many Asian communities. San Jose has the largest Vietnamese American population of any city in the country.
Children in colorful lion and dragon costumes danced through the crowds, bringing good fortune and prosperity. Women in bright-colored traditional Vietnamese dress vied for the title of ‘Miss Tet’ on one stage, while in another arena, kids competed in taekwondo.
Council member and deputy mayor of San Jose, Madison Nguyen, who is Vietnamese American, says approximately 10 per cent of the city’s population is of Vietnamese heritage.
“Most of the Vietnamese Americans who reside in San Jose are victims of the Vietnam War,” Nguyen says. “We’ve been here for the past 30 years; the Tet Festival is a way for us to celebrate and continue our culture and our heritage.”
The festival also included a somber exhibit of photographs and memorabilia of the ‘Tet Offensive’ - bloody surprise attacks by North Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam War over 45 years ago. Many of the older attendees at the festival came as refugees after the fall of South Viet Nam.
Over 40,000 people attended this year’s festival. The Year of the Snake, an animal believed to be a good omen, begins February 10.