The UVSA Tết Festival (Hội Tết Sinh Viên) will ring in the Year of the Cat with a celebration from January 27 to January 29, 2023 at the OC Fair and Event Center. This Tết festival is the largest Vietnamese Lunar New Year Festival in the U.S.
Tết, short for Tết Nguyên Đán, is the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, the most important holiday in Vietnamese culture. Tết celebrates the arrival of a new spring where families reunite, enjoy each other’s company, forget about the troubles of the previous year and look forward to a better upcoming year.
Be sure to check out all Orange County Lunar New Year events.
UVSA Tết Festival (Hội Tết Sinh Viên)
Where: Orange County Fair & Event Center
Address: 88 Fair Dr, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Friday, January 27, 2023 | 4:00PM – 10:00PM
Saturday, January 28, 2023 | 11:00AM – 10:00PM
Sunday, January 29, 2023 | 11:00AM – 9:00PM
Raising of the Bamboo | Friday, January 27 at 5:00pm
Ancestral Altar Procession | Saturday, January 28 at 1:00pm
Spring Wedding | Sunday, January 29 at 1:30pm
Ticket booths are located adjacent to the main entrance and accept cash and cards. Promotional codes, online discounts, printed flyers, newspaper ads, and so forth are not valid on tickets purchased at the main entrance. All sales are final and there are no refunds.
Free admission for infants 2 years and younger.
Free entrance for visitors who wear traditional Vietnamese clothing (no religious outfits), military, and scout uniforms (no costumes). ONLY VALID on Saturday from 11am – 12pm.
Things to do at the USVA Têt Festival
There are many activities and events that take place at the festival, including:
- Enjoy traditional Vietnamese food and drink: Têt is a great time to try traditional Vietnamese dishes such as Bánh Chưng, a rice cake made with mung bean and fatty pork fillings packed neatly inside lá dong or green banana leaves. You can also try various types of tea, coffee, and other beverages.
- Watch traditional Vietnamese dance performances: The event features traditional Vietnamese dance performances including lion dances, which are a great way to learn about the country’s culture and history.
- Check out the cultural village: The cultural exhibit features traditional Vietnamese artifacts, clothing, galleries, and traditional Vietnamese architecture. There are many photo opportunities with traditional Vietnamese themes.
- Shop for traditional Vietnamese crafts and souvenirs: Shop for traditional Vietnamese crafts and souvenirs, such as lacquerware, silk clothing, and ceramics
- Multiple Stages: The festival has multiple stages where activities such a pho eating contest, pageants, karaoke, dance performances and more are held. The schedule has back to back performances so there is always something to catch.
- Activities: There are numerous activities for all ages and backgrounds.
- Miss Vietnam of Southern California Pageant: The pageant showcases the contestants’ talents with the yearly tradition of having the pageant at Tết Festival.
Opening Ceremony Special
VALID ONLY on Saturday, January 28 from 11am – 12pm. Free entrance for visitors who wear traditional outfits (no religious outfits), military, and scout uniforms (no costumes).
Tet Festival’s Cultural Village (also known as Làng Việt Nam in Vietnamese) is a replica of a traditional village in Việt Nam. The village is comprised of cultural exhibits, galleries, and models of Vietnamese architecture throughout.
Raising of the Bamboo – Lễ Dựng Nêu
The Village starts off the festival with the raising of Cây Nêu (a tall piece of bamboo with a good luck message on a red scroll and firecrackers). Identical to traditions still done in Việt Nam, the Raising of Cây Nêu marks the beginning of Tềt. According to famous legends in Vietnamese Culture the red color and the tree ward off the evil spirits during the absence of Ông Táo (the Kitchen Gods) who leave the family at this time to visit the palace of the Jade Emperor. During the New Year, each Village decides on a Village Deity (Thanh Hoàng). The deity is usually a person of high respect and has usually done something positively impactful to the Village itself, or to the whole country.
Ancestral Procession – Lễ Rước Kiệu Tổ
The Têt Festival officially begins with the Ancestral Procession (Lé Ruöc Kieu Tổ). It is a traditional ceremony where individuals dress in costumes of King, Queen, Court Officials, soldiers, elders, and ordinary villagers walk in a cultural procession with carrying the altar of King Hùng, the founder of the Vietnamese people and nation, along with offerings to the prayer site (main ceremonial altar) on the Tết Festival stage to officially begin the festival.
Spring Wedding – Đám Cưới Đầu Xuân
A traditional Spring Wedding kicks off the new year. Complete with an actual bride and groom, the wedding has traditional tea offerings to elders, lion dances, a wedding procession, and an actual roasted pig! Come on by and congratulate the happy couple at the Spring Wedding!
𝗩𝗶𝗲𝘁𝗻𝗮𝗺𝗲𝘀𝗲 𝗧𝗿𝗮𝗱𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗗𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀
- Lion dance (múa lân) is typically performed to celebrate special occasions such as Lunar New Year as a means to bring in good fortune. Performers don a lion costume and dance along to drums, cymbals, and gongs.
- The fan dance (vũ phiến) can be performed with small wooden fans or larger, flowing silk fans. Performers dance cohesively as a group to create imagery that evokes gracefulness and beauty.
- The hat dance (múa nón) utilizes Vietnamese leaf hats to, like fan dance, display gracefulness. This dance honors the hardworking farmers and celebrates common everyday life.
The UVSA Têt Festival showcases Vietnamese culture through the traditional clothing, the ao dai. The ao dai is a symbol of cultural identity and Vietnamese heritage and is often associated with grace, elegance, and traditional values.
It is worn by both men and women. For women, it is often seen as a symbol of Vietnamese femininity, and is worn on special occasions, such as weddings and formal events. In addition to its cultural and historical significance, the ao dai is also considered a fashion statement, with many wearing it as a fashionable and stylish garment.
Têt Festival Food
The Vietnamese saying “ăn Tết”, literally meaning “eat Tết”. The Têt Festival showcases unique Vietnamese foods that you should try in time for Tết.
Every year they feature more food from local establishments that are looking to share their culinary vision. A festival wouldn’t be complete without tons of delicious food, make sure you don’t miss out on some great food and great times!
About the Festival Food
When asked what iconic dish comes to mind when talking about Tết, Bánh Chưng is usually the first answer. Bánh Chưng is a rice cake made with mung bean and fatty pork fillings packed neatly inside lá dong or green banana leaves (also known as lá chuối). Its square shape symbolizes the ground expressing gratitude to their ancestors and the earth, as ancient Vietnamese people believed the sky is round and the earth is square.
The process of making Bánh Chưng is time consuming and requires the contribution of several people, thus making it a special chance for Vietnamese people to gather with their families to make Bánh Chưng and tell each other stories about Tet.
“If Bánh Chưng represents the earth, Bánh Giầy is the sky.”
Together, Bánh Chưng and Bánh Giầy are served during Tết as a symbol for harmony between earth and heaven. It is a tradition to seek balance and prosperity for the new year, as well as showing gratitude to ancestors and those around you.
Bánh Giầy is a flat and round glutinous rice cake, wrapped in cut pieces of banana leaves. It’s served with a type of Vietnamese sausage called “chả lụa”. Bánh Giầy’s round shape is a perfect representation for the sky, as ancient Vietnamese people believed the sky is round and the earth is square.
The meaning of Bánh Chưng and Bánh Giầy comes from the Vietnamese’s Legend of the Rice Cake (Sự Tích Bánh Chưng và Bánh Giầy). Since then, they have become an indispensable part of our Vietnamese culture and for Tết.
In Vietnamese culture, the color Red symbolizes good fortune, happiness, and success. Hence, Xôi Gấc or Vietnamese Red Sticky Rice is a traditional dish that you will always see presented on one’s table during Tết. It is a simple dish with two main ingredients – glutinous rice and Gấc. The unique bright red color of the dish comes from the fruit “Gấc”, also known as baby jackfruit or sweet gourd.
The process of making Xôi Gấc is quite ‘chilling’ because of the redness coming from the pulp inside of Gấc. After removing the seeds, the meat of the fruit will be mixed with rice. Coconut milk and sugar are added to enrich the deliciously sweet flavor of Xôi Gấc.
Xôi Gấc plays an important role in the Vietnamese culture as it is a dish believed to bring good luck and fortune.
The five-fruit tray or 𝘮𝘢̂𝘮 𝘯𝘨𝘶̃ 𝘲𝘶𝘢̉ is an essential part of Tết celebrations. You’ll find them on altars as offerings to ancestors or as decorations in living rooms for good fortune. The types of fruit differ from region to region in Vietnam, and each fruit is carefully picked to symbolize a wish for the coming year.
Here is a look at common fruits and their meanings:
- Banana: protection
- Coconut: moderation and balance
- Mandarin: success
- Mango: spending
- Peach: hope
- Watermelon: fertility
Be sure to stop by the UVS Tết Festival with your family and eat Bánh Chưng!
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Monique McArthur is a mother of two, writer, and creator of delicious recipes. In her spare time she enjoys exploring all that Orange County has to offer, traveling, shopping, running with her dogs and spending time with family.