Rivaling Mardi Gras in its merriment and Christmas in its solemnity, the seven-day Lunar New Year celebration begins this weekend.
One of the biggest festivals in metro Atlanta kicks off Sunday as the Vietnamese Community of Georgia holds its Lunar New Year Festival at the Hong Kong Market shopping center in Norcross. The festival in observance of the new year, known as Tet, incorporates custom with celebration and is one of the most important observances of the year, said Chairwoman Kim Hanh Dang.
The old Office Depot building is being transformed into an exposition of Vietnamese revelry, with games, food and goods. For the past week, volunteers have been assembling decorations and constructing a stage for performances and shows.
Stage entertainment includes contests and pageants with awards totaling more than $25,000. Contests include prizes for Miss Silk Dress, Miss Elegance, Mrs. Silk Dress, Mr. Senior and children's traditional outfit. All of the contests, Kim said, are geared toward recognizing and preserving cultural traditions in the Vietnamese community.
Entertainment also will include music, magic and two dance groups from the Vietnamese temple, Minh Dang Quang, in Duluth.
Scholarships totaling $1,750 in cash and $2,000 in gift certificates will be awarded to 10 students at each school level: elementary, middle and high.
Kim said the festival also will include brief remarks from representatives of the U.S. Census Bureau, who will be encouraging Vietnamese residents to participate in the 2010 census. The 2000 census put the Vietnamese population in metro Atlanta at about 24,000, with the highest concentration in Gwinnett County.
In preparation for Sunday's event, the Hong Kong Market has tables overflowing with trays and boxes of New Year's candy, a traditional gift for the holiday. Other tables feature arrangements of Hoa Mai, a yellow blossom that represents spring.
"We don't go to the mall to buy gifts for New Year's," Kim said. "We buy traditional gifts."
On the less traditional side, Sunday's festival also will feature large-screen video monitors. Kim said technicians hope to rig the monitors so they can display a split screen view of the stage on one side and the Super Bowl on the other.
"Yes, we cannot avoid it," she said. "But this way, all the men will stay here."
More celebrations are on tap for the following week:
The Vietnamese Association of Greater Atlanta also will host its Tet festival at the Hong Kong Market, 5495 Jimmy Carter Blvd., from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Feb. 13 and from noon to 8 p.m. on Feb. 14. Admission is $5.
The Chinese Cultural Center will hold a two-day festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 13-14 at 5377 New Peachtree Road in Chamblee. The festival will feature a dragon dance, Chinese opera performances and a traditional drum performance. There also will be calligraphy demonstrations, arts and crafts, and food. Admission is $5.
The Korean Kyungki do/Seoul/Incheon Association will hold a New Year's festival from 6 to 10 p.m. on Feb. 14 at the JC Event Hall, 5775 Jimmy Carter Blvd., Norcross. The free event will feature traditional music, dancing, singing and food.
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