Monday, February 29, 2016
Vietnamese Lunar New Year
 Photo: Special to The Daily Iowan

By Macey Spensley, The Daily Iowan

Part of the Vietnamese community in Iowa City joined to celebrate their culture and share it with others.

The University of Iowa Vietnamese Student Association took time to celebrate the culture with an annual Lunar New Year celebration in the IMU on Feb. 27.

“The Lunar New Year is celebrating spring coming, and it’s a time for family to get together,” group member Amy Luong said.

Tet Nguyên Đán, or the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, celebrates the arrival of spring based on the Chinese calendar. It is also a time for families to get together. This year is the Year of the Monkey.

“It’s very big in Vietnam,” Luong said.

The event had Vietnamese songs, a southeast Asian dance, and a fashion show.

“It’s all highlighting Vietnamese culture,” she said. “We can’t have community members bring in traditional Vietnamese food dishes, so that’s the only thing stunting our attempt at tradition.”

Group alumnus Anthony Dang said the association has tried to include many different acts over the years.

“We reach out to a variety of acts from all different backgrounds,” he said.

One of the most important parts of the Lunar New Year celebration is the Lion Dance. Allionce, a group from Des Moines, performed at the celebration.

“The Vietnamese Lion Dance brings joy and good luck and wards off bad spirits,” said Amy Huynh, the Allionce team manager.  “The Lion Dance pays respect to our elders.”

Allionce performs with 12 people.  There is the lion, the Earth Spirit, and those who play the drums, gongs, cymbals, and a flute.

“The Earth Spirit, or ongdia, leads the lion and takes care of him,” Huynh said.

People from all different backgrounds typically attend the Lunar New Year celebration.

“We want our son to experience other cultures,” said Xinli Han, a visiting mathematics scholar from China. “China’s Lunar New Year is around the same time as Vietnam’s.”

Han said each New Year is represented by one of 12 animals.

“It’s a tradition for people to choose when to have their child according to the animal of that year,” he said. “Not everyone does it, but some do.”

Luong said the most important part of the Lunar New Year is gathering families together.

“It’s about people being together and eating,” she said. “Often, there is an altar for people to worship their ancestors.”

Dang said the Lunar New Year has always been an important part of his family’s traditions.

“Growing up, it was a time for our families to come together, eat food, and wish each other luck,” he said. “We don’t have a central Vietnamese community in Iowa. This is a time for us come together.”