Celebrating Tet and the importance of involving Vietnamese Youth

Tet Nguyen Dan (Tet), the Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebration, is a highly anticipated multiple day event that includes traditional Vietnamese foods, dance, and song, and celebrations galore.

This year, the Vietnamese community is trying to involve more Vietnamese youth in the festivities. The celebrations come with a variety of events happening across the Lower Mainland.

“Many of [these events], which are hosted by different organizations, groups, and agencies, all have the same purpose- celebrating the Lunar New Year tradition of family, gathering, and the prosperity of the New Year,” says Yen Nguyen, head of the Vietnamese Youth Development Program (VYDP).

Celebrating the Lunar New Year

Michelle La, a 23-year-old senior advisor for Simon Fraser University’s Vietnamese Student Association, discusses the importance of Tet to her and her community.

“In Vietnam, Tet is enthusiastically talked about and people prepare for it in at least a month in advance as it is the biggest celebration of the year,” says La.

La grew up in Coquitlam, where Tet wasn’t widely known. The celebration didn’t mean much to her until she recently learned more about her Vietnamese culture. The elaborate celebrations La has a newfound appreciation for include red envelopes, dances in ao dai (traditional Vietnamese dresses), and beautiful flower displays. Many families clean their homes before Tet for good luck and buy at least three new outfits for the New Year. Traditionally, the children wish their elders prosperity and a long healthy life in exchange for red envelopes with money inside. Special dishes served include banh chung, a square cake made from glutinous rice, mung bean, and pork wrapped in banana leaf, gio cha, Vietnamese sausage, xoi, a type of sticky rice, and mut, candied fruit.

Vietnamese youth in the community

Michelle La, senior advisor for SFU’s Vietnamese Student Association. | Photo courtesy of Michelle La

Michelle La, senior advisor for SFU’s Vietnamese Student Association. | Photo courtesy of Michelle La

The Lunar New Year is about celebrating Vietnamese traditions and embracing Vietnamese culture. The VYDP, in partnership with the City of Vancouver and the Children’s Aid Foundation, assists Vietnamese families with integration into Canadian culture.

Nguyen believes that many of the newly immigrated Vietnamese youth have a hard time establishing their identity but it is important to celebrate both their Vietnamese heritage and their new Canadian identity.

“Participating in [Vietnamese] cultural programs is important. [The Vietnamese-Canadian youth] are able to have the opportunity to learn about their culture and interact with other Vietnamese youth when they might not have the same opportunities at school or at home when their parents are working,” says Nguyen.

La believes the Vietnamese youth do give back to the community but she feels there is always more to be done.

“We need more young Vietnamese leaders and positive role models who aren’t afraid to speak up. The youth should be more active with hosting events such as Tet, to preserve and celebrate our cultural identity,” says La.

Brian Truong, external vice president of V3, a Vancouver based Vietnamese group that tries to preserve Vietnamese culture, believes Vietnamese youth simply need to learn more about their culture in order to give back.

“Many of the traditions may not be relevant to the individuals or even practiced in Canada but we have so much to offer, like every other race. It is hard for the generation that grew up in Canada to learn a lot about their culture and traditions,” says Truong.

Alongside the VYDP, Nguyen and a group of Vietnamese students are assembling more than a hundred gift bags to hand out in the Downtown Eastside in celebration of Tet.

For more information on Tet and the Vietnamese Youth Development Program, please visit www.pcrs.ca/broadway_youth_resource_centre/vietnamese-youth-development-program2