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Tết: Vietnamese Lunar New Year with Cô Bích

Cô Bích (center) with some of her first year Vietnamese language students.

February 15, 2017

This week in TWISEA we are spotlighting our Vietnamese language instructor’s first Tết celebration on campus.

On Saturday, January 21, Vietnamese language instructor Cô Bích Ngọc-Turner hosted her first Tết (Lunar New Year) event on campus at the Water Activities Center. Those who attended were Vietnamese American community members, Southeast Asian Center and Asian Languages & Literature faculty as well as UW students learning Vietnamese. Men wore suits and dress shirts while many of the women and children wore traditional outfits (áo dài) in a variety of colors.

To celebrate the beginning of the Year of the Rooster, Cô Bích prepared a variety of fun activities. The prizes, small red packets (lì xì in Vietnamese) filled with money. The activities began with guessing lyrics from popular Tết songs and guessing the descriptions of common Tết scenes. When the scenes of New Year’s Eve offerings (cúng giao thừa) and song lyrics appeared on the screen, everyone from local professionals to Vietnamese American UW students in Cô Bích’s class, shouted out answers in Vietnamese. The highlight was the tug-o-war games played in groups of men, women and children. Everyone made their way onto the balcony to cheer on each group. The activities ended with the final raffles for flowers and a fruit platter of five fruits in five different colors, symbolizing the five elements of the universe (mâm ngũ quả), including dragonfruit, bananas and oranges.

But of course, the most enjoyable experience of the day was conversations over a potluck meal. UW students studying Vietnamese language got the opportunity to practice with native speakers. Those who are heritage speakers studying with Cô Bích got the opportunity to network with Vietnamese American professionals in the greater Seattle area.

Community members brought traditional homemade food for the Tết potluck. Vietnamese sausage, made up of lean meat, spices and fish sauce, (chả lụa) was served on a bed of sticky rice (xôi). Both fried (chả giò) and fresh (gỏi cuốn) spring rolls were served alongside generous amounts of dipping sauce (nước chấm). On top of that were oranges, dragonfruit, salad, and other delicious foods. The meal ended with cookies and traditional fruit in coconut milk (chè thái).

In Cô Bích’s Vietnamese language class, students get to not only study the language, but also learn about Vietnamese culture in class and at cultural events on campus like this one. Elementary, intermediate, and advanced Vietnamese are offered every year as a 3-quarter series.