Costa Mesa festival celebrates Vietnamese New Year

Firecrackers will burst, lions will dance and drums will sound this weekend at the 2015 Tet Festival at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa.

The three-day celebration of the Vietnamese New Year began Friday and is expected to attract more than 100,000 guests.

The festival, sponsored by the Union of the Vietnamese Student Assns. of Southern California, is in its second year at the Orange County fairgrounds. It used to be held in Garden Grove, but after political and financial issues, it was moved to Costa Mesa, said Julie Huynh, the festival's director.

Friday's activities included the Miss Vietnam of Southern California pageant, a bamboo-raising ceremony and a pho-eating contest.

An opening ceremony is planned for 12:30 p.m. Saturday, with a procession celebrating new ideas, friendships and unity as Americans, Huynh said.

At 1 p.m. Sunday, engaged couples will act out a traditional Vietnamese wedding ceremony, complete with a lion dance.

A concert at 4 p.m. will feature Vietnamese entertainers.

Throughout the weekend, guests may visit a cultural village showcasing Vietnam's rice production. It will include a display of harvesting tools against a backdrop of rice fields.

A new feature is a short-film contest in which guests may choose the People's Choice Award.

Huynh said members of the Union of the Vietnamese Student Assns. volunteer to help spread cultural awareness and build leadership skills. During the past two years, more than $1 million in festival proceeds has been awarded to nonprofit organizations, she said.

"We hope people from different backgrounds can experience the Lunar New Year and all be a part of this celebration," she said.

Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $6 at the door. The OC Fair & Event Center is at 88 Fair Drive.

For more information, call (714) 890-1418 or visit tetfestival.org.

—Kathleen Luppi

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What year is it?

Many east and central Asian Lunar New Year celebrations are based on the traditional Chinese calendar and Chinese zodiac.

With the farewell this week to the Year of the Horse, confusion surrounds Lunar New Year 2015. Is it dedicated to the sheep, ram or goat?

The uncertainty stems from the fact that there is one Chinese character for the horned animals, translated as "yang" in Mandarin.

Sheep and goats are raised in China, but goats are more common.

This year, the Vietnamese celebration known as Tet is ringing in the Year of the Goat.

Meanwhile, an exhibit at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa commemorates the Year of the Ram.

Julie Huynh, marketing director for this weekend's Tet Festival at the OC Fair & Event Center, also in Costa Mesa, said "goat" and "ram" are interchangeable. However, she and her staff decided that using "ram," a male sheep, may appear to exclude women.

"The goat just felt more mainstream," she said.

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