Tet, or Vietnamese New Year, is the biggest celebration in Vietnamese culture. With one of the largest and most vibrant Vietnamese populations in the country, New Orleans is a prime spot to enjoy the Lunar New Year and ancient traditions of Vietnamese heritage.
The February celebration in New Orleans features food, bands, fashion and beauty shows, carnival games, dances, arts and crafts. A lion dance and fireworks open the three-day festival held by the congregation of the Mary Queen of Vietnam Church on Dwyer Boulevard.
As the Communist regime took over Vietnam in the mid-1970s, many Vietnamese nationals resettled in the United States, and South Louisiana was one of the most popular destinations.
After many years in the city, the Vietnamese community has revitalized many neighborhoods in New Orleans while maintaining their distinct ancestral heritage and sharing their culture with the rest of the city.
Closely based on a variation of the Chinese lunar-solar calendar, Tet Nguyen Dan, or Tet for short, is one of the most sacred holidays in Vietnam. As the marker of springtime and the start of the Lunar New Year, Tet is a huge celebration of tradition, history and ancestry.
In New Orleans, the festival typically begins with church services in the evening, followed by fireworks and traditional dances. The festival continues though the weekend. Entry is free and attendees can expect traditional Vietnamese cuisine, music, dancing, fireworks and other cultural performances.
From Spring rolls, to Báhn Mì and Pho, visitors come from near and far to get a taste of the phenomenal Vietnamese cuisine at the church grounds. The food is delicious, affordable and comes in hearty portions. There are also spacious seating areas to sit back, eat, and enjoy the music and dancing.
For more culinary delights you can take a short trip to the “Little Vietnam” settlement, also known as Village de L’Est, where the Mary Queen of Vietnam Church is located. Little Vietnam is just a short drive from the festival grounds and offers an authentic assortment of traditional and contemporary Vietnamese dishes and groceries. For more information, go to www.maryqueenofvietnamparish.org.
Buddhist Tet Celebrations
If you miss the event at Queen Mary of Vietnam, there are more Buddhist celebrations throughout the month in Belle Chasse at the Bo De Temple located on Louisiana State Highway 996. This temple is on the West Bank of the Mississippi River in Plaquemines Parish and is well worth the drive to experience the Buddhist side of Tet celebrations.