Vietnamese New Year celebrated at Julian Smith Casino

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Augustans celebrated the Vietnamese New Year on Sunday with a mix of traditional customs at Julian Smith Casino’s banquet hall.

The dragon dances around to the delight of the audience during the Vietnamese New Year celebration at the Julian Smith Casino in Augusta Sunday afternoon.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
The dragon dances around to the delight of the audience during the Vietnamese New Year celebration at the Julian Smith Casino in Augusta Sunday afternoon.

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.

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avidreader 01/30/12 - 06:52 am
Concerning the Tet Offensive,

Concerning the Tet Offensive, 1968: Even though Vietnam had divided borders and recognition of the "enemy" was often a guess, at best, our American troops took a huge beating on this most revered occasion. U.S. soldiers never expected it, as Tet is a sacred holiday, one to equal our Christmas or Fourth-of-July. The North Vietnamese Army poured in from various strategic locations and caused mayhem. Many U.S. commanders lost their jobs because their subordinates were sitting on their hands, without a clue.

It took me a lot of years to realize that the Vietnamese people were merely fighting for their independence. They destroyed the French garrisons in 1954 to end a hundred years of colonialism, and as I believe now, these hardworking people deserved to run their own affairs, whether our elitist government agreed or not. The Bay of Tonkin "incident" and Dominoe Theory proved to be a crock of crap. Nearly 59,000 American troops lost their lives in Vietnam. God bless our troops and their families, but from 1954 to 1975, very few people in our country ever stopped to think about the Vietnamese people as human beings. The result was tragic, both for the Vietnamese and our military.

It is said that the winners get to write the history books. The embarrassment of the Vietnam War is barely mentioned in our current high school history books. I wonder why?

To all of our Vietnam Vets, thank you for your loyalty and support during these trying years. I also am a vet. You fought as honorable men; however, our politicians did not.

I am pleased that Augusta has a thriving Vietnamese community. In prinicple, they live disciplined lives and contribute so much to our way of life. They will maintain my respect forever.

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