Husky Heritage: Kathlynn Nguyen


photo by Kathlynn Nguyen

At her church’s mass celebration, Nguyen poses with the dragon. This year, her church is celebrating their 30th anniversary.

For senior Kathlynn Nguyen, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year festival is an annual tradition. Surrounded by red traditional clothing, dancing lions and singing performances, Nguyen feels right at home. 

“I like the hectic environment. It’s crazy, especially at the food stations, everyone is buying and ordering so much,” Nguyen said. “There was one time where a person ordered 10 plus drinks at once. But it’s cool, it’s like Cooking Fever in real life.” 

Beginning on Jan. 22 this year, Tết, or the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, lasts for 15 days and kicks off the year of the cat in the Vietnamese zodiac. For Nguyen, that means 15 days of exchanging red envelopes, playing bầu cua tôm cá, a traditional Viet dice game, and eating bánh tét, sticky rice with meat. But after all the fun and games, Nguyen remembers what this holiday really means to her. 

“I love being around my family,” Nguyen said. “There’s no specific part I enjoy the most [about Tết]. If I’m with my family, everything is my favorite part.”

On the eve of the new year, Nguyen made sure to wish “chúc mừng năm mới” to her family back in Vietnam. 

“I used to spend New Year’s with them when I was little, but we moved so we made sure to call them to wish them a happy new year,” Nguyen said. 

Although her extended family is not with her, Nguyen finds a second family in the Viet community. Her church celebrated Tết on Jan. 22 with a mass Sunday service, and will host the Vietnamese Lunar New Year festival on Jan. 28-29. 

“[The mass] was more like a gathering before the real fun starts,” Nguyen said. “I got to take a picture with the dragon, and I actually used to be absolutely terrified of dragons. I used to run away whenever I saw one [but now] they’re cool.”

Lasting from morning to night, the festival provides everything from game booths to boba to live performances. Last year, Nguyen and her family even performed “Hello Vietnam” at the festival. 

“It was fun but also super scary because it’s the biggest event in the Viet community so there were so many people,” Nguyen said. 

But the day festivities are just the opening act. The night show takes center stage, attracting hundreds of Vietnamese across central Florida. 

“It’s huge, it’s like a whole concert,” Nguyen said. “It’s so magical with all the dancers and the costumes are really nice too. They go all out and I’m so excited for it.” 

At the end of the day, Nguyen sees the celebration of Tết as a connection to her roots. 

“Since it’s such a traditional holiday, I think it’s important to keep that tradition alive in order to keep the culture alive,” Nguyen said.