Cymbals crash and a drum beats as people under a single colorful dragon costume and others in Buddha masks dance during the Tet Celebration in Garden City. For the Vietnamese who live here, this event is a way to retain their roots and celebrate their heritage; for the rest of us, it offers a wonderful opportunity to learn about Vietnamese culture.Tet Nguyen-Dan, or simply Tet, is the Vietnamese version of the Lunar New Year that originated in China. Because it is based on the lunar calendar, Tet is celebrated in either January or February depending on when the second new moon appears after the beginning of winter.

Mitch Young, vice president of the Vietnamese Cultural Association that organizes the Garden City event, describes Tet as a combination of one’s birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day and New Year’s all celebrated on the same day. He says the event allows the 800 Vietnamese living here to honor their traditions and teach their children about their rich culture while also showing appreciation to the Garden City community for its support and exposing others to their customs.

The celebration includes the bamboo hat dance, dress dance, umbrella dance, and, of course, the dragon dance. Traditionally, children and grandchildren return home during Tet to wish the elderly good health, longevity, and prosperity. In turn, the elderly give the children lucky money called li xi (pronounced ‘lie see’) in small red envelopes that are fed to the dancing dragon to garner more good luck. The event also includes Vietnamese food such as roast pork, egg rolls, noodles, spring rolls, stir fry, and fried rice.

Have you seen the dragon dance?


Cecilia Harris is a professional freelance writer from Abilene who enjoys discovering fascinating attractions, events and people that reflect the arts, culture and heritage found in Kansas. She has been a longtime regular contributor to KANSAS! magazine and also has written for such publications as Midwest Living, Sunflower Living, Kansas Heritage and The Greyhound Review to inspire others to explore and appreciate her home state. She also has authored two books, “Historic Homes of Abilene” and “Abilene’s Carousel.”