Tho Nguyen remembers his college days at N.C. State University in the 1990s, when he and his friends began craving the celebrations—and the foods—of home in Vietnam. It was at least twenty-five years ago, he says, that they began hosting a Vietnamese New Year festival in Raleigh.
On Saturday, the Vietnamese-American Association of Raleigh (VAAR) will host its annual Tết Festival at Dorton Arena, 1025 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh. Tết, or Vietnamese New Year, is shortened from Tết Nguyên Đán, which is Sino-Vietnamese for “Feast of the First Morning of the First Day.”
The feasts, says Nguyen, are meant to be shared for prosperity.
“We present altars of foods to our gods, or our ancestors, I should say, for good luck and good health,” he says.
The festival begins at 10:30 a.m., featuring homestyle meals that says are typical of New Year celebrations, prepared by local family-owned restaurants, non-profit organizations, temples, and churches. Dishes include banh mi, porridge, lotus root salads, stewed goat in red wine, spring rolls, Vietnamese iced coffees and bubble tea, and, of course, sticky rice.
“The stickier the rice, the better it sticks to your body and to your soul,” Nguyen says.
Other activities include live music and raffle prizes, including a trip to Vietnam. Ten dollars gets you into the daytime festival. For more information, visit www.vietraleigh.org.