Vietnamese American community unites for Lunar New Year celebrations at Tết in Boston

About 3,500 people from across New England celebrated Tết in Boston on Sunday, marking the Vietnamese Lunar New Year and marking the start of the Year of the Tiger.

Guests were entertained by local performing groups and served Vietnamese cuisine prepared by small businesses and restaurants while celebrating Vietnamese heritage, culture and unity. The Vietnamese American Community of Massachusetts and the New England Intercollegiate Vietnamese Student Association have held this annual festival for 33 years, attracting visitors from all over New England.

It’s the biggest Vietnamese event for Theresa Tran, director of sponsorship for Tết in Boston.

“Coming back to Vietnam is the biggest party. So, coming from a large Vietnamese community and a good portion of them being Vietnamese refugees, it’s something they look forward to. is like their Christmas, right? So it brings the whole community together,” she said.

More than 170 volunteers worked all day Saturday to transform Flynn Cruiseport, bringing items that represent Vietnamese culture, such as motorcycles, lucky charms and ao dai, the iconic silk tunics.

Theresa Tran, Boston’s Tết Sponsorship Manager, encourages Bostonians to support Vietnamese small businesses throughout the year. (Photo: Arden Bastia)

“You have the older generation coming in, kind of bringing their knowledge of how it was celebrated in Vietnam,” Tran said. “And then you have the younger generation who are hungry to learn and want to do more to get involved and commit to staying true to that tradition.”

Tran pointed out that Tết is another way to connect and promote Vietnamese small businesses all over Boston, especially during the pandemic.

Tết in Boston was celebrated virtually in 2021, so this year represented a return to the community.

Before the pandemic, the Tết celebration saw crowds of more than 9,000, shared Khang Nguyen, vice president of MA’s Vietnamese American community.

As an immigrant, Nguyen understands the importance of community. Nguyen escaped from Vietnam in 1981 when he was just 12 years old. He has been involved in the planning and organization of the Tết event for nearly 30 years.

“You don’t find another such important cultural event, especially in winter,” he said. For Nguyen, this event is a chance to pass on culture and traditions to younger generations, many of whom were born in the United States or came here at a young age.

“They don’t know the culture,” Nguyen said. “I teach them to show their culture.”

“What’s really important to me is representing my culture,” said Brían Nguyen, holder of the Miss Perfect Teen 2021 title. “Growing up, I was always ashamed of my culture and all that, and of so many different variables of being different. Being here today makes me proud to be a Vietnamese-American.

Brían Nguyen, a first-generation Vietnamese American, is “very proud” of her culture. “I am here and very proud,” she said. “I know a lot of people say, oh, you don’t have to be so loud to be so proud to be trans or to be Asian. But I believe in being proud of yourself, and kissing is so important.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and several city council members also attended Tết in Boston.

“Each year is a wonderful reminder of how strong our community is, how much we all need to celebrate throughout the year, and how much we can do ahead of another bright and prosperous year in 2022” , Wu said during his speech. to the crowd.

Both children and adults enjoyed Boston’s Tết festivities as they celebrated the arrival of the Year of the Tiger and the culture of Vietnam. (Photo: Taylor Blackley)

“This is the Year of the Tiger, so we must all continue to be brave, strong and courageous as we come together and show how strong Dorchester, Field’s Corner, our Vietnamese community and the City of Boston are. “, she said.

The endorsement by the Mass Cultural Council of Little Saigon, which is centered at Fields Corner, is a way to showcase Vietnamese culture, said Boston Little Saigon volunteer Sandy Nguyen. In May 2021, the city of Boston and Little Saigon received a $75,000 Our City grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

“I’m from California and first Little Saigon,” she said. “I’m really happy that we’re able to bring this community to Boston.”

If Mayor Wu and the Boston City Council approved more funding for organizations like Boston Little Saigon, Nguyen says she would like to see more support for Vietnamese small businesses, especially businesses hit hard by Covid.

Local Organization Executive Director VietAidLisette Le, shared in an interview with The Scope last Friday that the Vietnamese community here began to grow in the 1990s.

“Originally people actually lived in places like Brighton and East Boston, but as the population grew and with the help of the Catholic Church they resettled along the red line and then in Fields Corner in particular,” she said, adding that Dorchester Avenue is the “commercial corridor” for the various small businesses in the community.

Traditional foods eaten during Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebrations were sold by local vendors. (Photo: Taylor Blackley)

According to US Census data, Dorchester has the largest Vietnamese population in Massachusetts. In 2018, 53,700 Vietnamese lived in Boston.

VietAid, says Le, “was a response to a community need…as a response to the community that needed a gathering place, community halls, non-profit spaces or health centers “.

Le pointed out that the community has a high poverty rate and a high limited English-speaking population.

According to data from a 2019 study conducted by the Institute of Asian American Studies at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, the median income of Vietnamese residents is $73,488, the lowest of any minority population in the city. The poverty rate for Vietnamese Bostonians is 14.9%. According to the study, 61% of Vietnamese adults say they speak English “less than ‘very well’”.

Le said workers in the community’s two largest industries, nail salons and construction, have faced many challenges in recent years. “People out there in the trades that work home flooring, plumbing, don’t necessarily get to the jobs on those big construction sites that you see around town. And of course, nail salons have been hit pretty hard by the pandemic. »

Access to food for the Vietnamese community is a particular struggle, Le pointed out, adding that “there are not many culturally appropriate foods that you can get through traditional food banks and other distribution”.

Since VietAid’s inception in 1994, the organization has helped over 400 families through housing counseling programs, certified over 630 people with limited English proficiency, and helped thousands of people apply for assistance. unemployment and food aid. The non-profit organization also operates 123 affordable rental housing and homeownership units that provide quality, affordable housing to more than 135 families and individuals.

Le says that it is at times like the Lunar New Year that the community comes together to bond despite the challenges.

“It’s homecoming,” she said. “Especially for an immigrant community, you really miss those times when you’re with people from your own culture and celebrating together…These community gatherings are really important because it’s both recreation, celebrations and joy.”

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