Tet Festival (Tết) is a Vietnamese traditional event to celebrate Lunar New Year during 3 days of Tet. It’s like Christmas in the US as we often travel to our hometown and have a big family reunion during Tet. However, as we live an ocean away from Vietnam, we rarely celebrated Tet in the past 10 years. This year, we decided to visit Tet Festival in Orange County to remind us of our past life and to take pictures of the Lion Dance.
Even though they had online payment, we went there and paid in cash for $6/person for the entrance fee. The parking cost us $8/vehicle which was a hefty price given parking was pretty cheap or even free normally. In SoCal, we have plenty of space for parking so I was surprised how expensive parking fee here was!
I must admit that I came here for exotic Vietnamese street food but I was disappointed by the lack of variety here. There were only 2-3 booths that sold balut, grilled banana, sugar cane with really high price. There were other food like Korean BBQ, Mexican food, etc. but they were not what I was looking for.
After waiting for 20 minutes without any progress in the long line, I left the food court as it took too long to buy street food. A couple with 3 kids next to me were complaining about the lack of picnic tables to sit down and eat; I totally agreed and felt sorry for them.
They tried to recreate a traditional village with bamboo booths and decorated with lots of traditional food like Banh Tet (rice with pork inside), Banh Mi or noodle vendors. You can see some traditional flags that used to be in the past. On the left side of the village, there was a small stage with some seats made from straws, which was the only place you could sit down under the sun and there was no shade at all.
We waited for the Lion Dance that was supposed to happen at 11AM but at 12PM, there was no sign of them. I asked the volunteers running around the area but they had no idea whether the Lion Dance had happened or not, and where it should be (!?)
After the Pho Eating Contest, they introduced little kids from a Dual Language school to sing some Vietnamese songs to celebrate Tet with weird dance. I know that I shouldn’t judge the kids but the adults should be responsible for the kid performance as the kids mainly yelled “Tet Tet Tet” into the mic and I was as confused as other Americans! The torturing performance lasted nearly 2 hours with the kids reading Vietnamese poems and singing songs, while the promised Lion dance was no where to find!
At 1PM, the organizer told us in broken English that the Lion Dance crew was there but they couldn’t find the crew. They started to argue with each other behind the scene in Vietnamese but the mic was on the whole time, which confused everyone sitting there. “Hangry”, I left the stage and followed the wedding line and found the Lion Dance in front of them!
The Lion Dance was not as I expected as they were just walking around rather than dancing. Traditionally, they should dance in the middle of the round and jump on top of some poles to demonstrate the martial art. However, this one was not what I remembered 🙁
As there were too many people following the Lion Dance crew, it was not easy to take pictures of them. Some women even tailgated the crew and tried to take selfie so most of my pictures had their faces!
Overall, I didn’t enjoy the festival that much. I think it was disorganized and chaotic, and it was not what I had experienced when I was a kid. Tet was never special to me anyway so I should have spent time somewhere else. If you would like some Viet food, don’t go there as you would pay too much for bad food. If you would like to see some Viet traditional experience, my friends advised to go to Fountain Valley Festival instead of this one.