Locals ready to celebrate Lunar New Year

Local Vietnamese, Chinese and Korean Americans and others of east Asian cultures that follow the lunar calendar have been preparing for the Lunar New Year for about a month — cleaning their homes and decorating with flowers and banners, typically red.

In the final days before the 2017 Lunar New Year — the Year of the Rooster —begins Saturday, many last-minute shoppers are making their way through the Asian Garden Flower Festival in Westminster's Little Saigon.

Many festival vendors who hail from east Asian countries say the festival reminds them and their customers of home.

"It's culture. It's tradition. People come from San Diego, from Riverside and from all over. It's the New Year and they want it to feel like home," said Alain Cheung of Fountain Valley, a vendor at the festival who was selling toys, decorations and other traditional fare.

The Lunar New Year is celebrated as a cultural or religious holiday, depending on how one sees it.

The occasion will be marked locally in coming days by events in Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, UC Irvine and elsewhere.

For many parents, it's an opportunity to introduce and explain their heritage to their American-born children.

"Young people don't know how the Lunar New Year looks like. I want my children to keep my culture," said Ghyuai Truong, 48, of Stanton. Truong, who came to America from Vietnam in 1989, has been a flower vendor at the festival since the first one 14 years ago.

For the first time in a long time, the holiday falls on a Saturday, enabling families to celebrate it to the full extent.

"There's this thing on the first day at midnight, the first person that comes to your house will bring the luck for the rest of the year," said Lyna Le, Flower Festival organizer and office manager for Bridgecreek, property manager for the Asian Garden Mall.

Some families take it so seriously, she said, that they invite certain people depending on their zodiac sign, because certain signs go well together and others do not.

On the first day of the new year, families get together in new outfits to share a meal, pray and exchange gifts.

Florists and fruit and toy vendors all have a place in Lunar New Year celebrations.

Flowers that bloom just in time for the holiday — such as yellow apricot and cherry blossoms — signify good luck; fruits are placed at altars as an offering to gods or ancestors; toys and red envelopes filled with "lucky" money are given to children to start the year.

"The celebrations in Vietnam are definitely bigger than they are here," said Tien Trang Luu of Garden Grove, who moved to the United States permanently last year. Luu is an award-winning calligrapher who brought her trade to the festival for the first time this year. Her pen name is Khanh Diep.

Wearing traditional attire, a khan dong hat and a calligraphy brush pinned through her hair, Luu explained how people in Vietnam visit temples to receive a word that acts as a blessing for major milestones such as a wedding or newborn baby. In America, many people request a word during the Lunar New Year.

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Nuran Alteir is a contributor to Times Community News.

Twitter: @whatnuransaid

Copyright © 2017, Daily Pilot

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