The celebration included a fashion show where women showed off their traditional clothing, or ao dai. An ao dai is a traditional two-piece outfit made of a long shirt, reaching almost to the floor, over long pants. The shirt has two slits on either side that come up to the top of the pants. Some were covered in sequins and feathers showing many colors.
Because this is the year of the dragon, there was also a dragon dance that symbolizes good luck and success in the coming year, according to Lucia Nguyen, one of the organizers.
Toward the front of the room was a makeshift blooming cây mai tree, which is plentiful in Vietnam and blooms during the lunar new year. Because there are no cây mai trees in Augusta, one of the organizers cut down a tree and decorated it with little yellow flowers to make it look very similar to the real thing, Nguyen said. Hanging from the tree were red and gold ornaments with traditional new year’s wishes for prosperity, health and happiness, as well as fireworks, which were set off later in the night.
Also at the front of the room was a table for worshiping ancestors, Nguyen said. The table held a traditional bowl of fruit, some sweet rice cakes, candles and a group of yellow flowers from the cây mai tree. As guests arrived, they stopped at the table to thank their ancestors for creating them and left burning incense in a bowl on the table.
In Vietnam, children look forward to this holiday because there are not any presents on Christmas. Instead, they are given red envelopes of money from their adult relatives for the new year.
Renee Briscoe-Harris attended with her husband and two children, ages 1 and 5. This was their first Vietnamese New Year celebration.
“I’m very excited,” she said as her 1-year-old slept in her lap before the entertainment began. “I don’t think she’ll sleep through the fireworks.”
Karaoke was also performed, and children danced and sang to folk songs as people ate traditional foods like Bánh bôt loc, Bánh da lon, and Bún Thit Nuong.