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Vietnamese Student Association Celebrates New Year

Hundreds Join in Decades-Old Tradition

Rice Paddy Heroes featuring UMass Lowell and Lowell High School students performed at the Vietnamese Student Association's annual Tet celebration. Anne Ruthmann photo
Rice Paddy Heroes featuring UMass Lowell and Lowell High School students performed at the Vietnamese Student Association's annual Tet celebration.

By Julia Gavin

As the University’s global reach continues to expand, it's important to remember that the campus has provided an international experience for decades, providing education to  generations of diverse students.

The Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) has been sharing their culture, promoting unity and giving back to their community on campus and beyond for several decades.  While the group hosts more than 20 public events throughout the year, one of their most popular activities is Tet, a celebration of the Vietnamese New Year in late January.

The party first came to campus several years ago, but lost steam due to the amount of work and resources required. An exciting and culturally enriching experience for the city and school seemed lost. Fortunately, the older generation of Vietnamese in Lowell stepped forward to help the VSA revive the tradition.

"During Tet, we welcome in the new year just like any other culture," says Hong Man, the current president of the VSA. “It's a big celebration because we believe it will bring us luck, happiness, health and wealth in the year to come."

The event grows each year and attracted more than 700 University and greater Lowell community members this year for a day of music, dancing, food and celebration.

“One of the audience’s favorite parts is the children’s performance,” says Man, who started volunteering with VSA while in high school. “It’s always amazing to see how well little children can perform in front of so many people.”

Lam Thuy Van, a professional singer from California, headlined the event, which mixed modern and traditional Vietnamese culture.

“Davis Nguyen, who is a part of our executive board, sang a traditional Vietnamese song which is great because so often the younger generation who aren’t immigrants like their parents are shy of being enriched by the Vietnamese culture,” Man says. “We also had Steven Trinh perform songs about life being a soldier, and he even dressed the part!”

While Tet is focused on celebration and new beginnings, the event offers important experiences for the student organizers. Scheduling performers, generating publicity, building collaborations within the community and holding many meetings all give students vital work experience while still in school. It takes months and dozens of volunteers to organize everything, but Man says the work is always worthwhile in the end.

“It’s a bittersweet experience because it requires so much effort and energy,” Man says, “but to see something like Tet blossom after the sweat and tears – it’s inspiring and keeps me going.”

To see pictures from this year’s Tet celebration, please visit the facebook gallery. For more information on the VSA, visit their website