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Lunar New Year festival celebrates Year of the Dragon

Billed as the Tampa region’s biggest Lunar New Year festival, the event was held Saturday.
 
Firecrackers are lit as lion dance performers welcome in the Year of the Dragon.
Firecrackers are lit as lion dance performers welcome in the Year of the Dragon. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published Feb. 4|Updated Feb. 4

St. Joseph Vietnamese Catholic Church in the Town ‘N Country area hosted a Lunar New Year Vietnamese Festival on Saturday to celebrate the holiday also known as Tet. The local Vietnamese community opened its doors to the public to celebrate Asian culture through traditional food and dance, and to honor the Year of the Dragon.

Festivities included a lion dance, fireworks and Vietnamese cuisine from multiple vendors, including the popular pandan waffles, sweet delicacies made with the tropical plant pandan and mixed with coconut.

Lunar New Year marks the beginning of the year based on the lunar calendar and is observed in diverse ways by several East and Southeast Asian cultures. Tet is the most important festival in Vietnamese culture. The 2024 celebration runs Feb. 8-14, with Tet falling on Feb. 10, marking the Year of the Dragon.

Alphonse Nguyen, 3, of Brandon wears a dragon hat and gam, a traditional Vietnamese outfit for men.
Alphonse Nguyen, 3, of Brandon wears a dragon hat and gam, a traditional Vietnamese outfit for men. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Cindy Nguyen of Tampa hangs up decorations.
Cindy Nguyen of Tampa hangs up decorations. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Vendors sell a variety of Vietnamese food to guests.
Vendors sell a variety of Vietnamese food to guests. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
People dress in traditional Vietnamese outfits that are red, which symbolizes good luck, fortune and happiness.
People dress in traditional Vietnamese outfits that are red, which symbolizes good luck, fortune and happiness. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Angelina Nguyen, 3, of Tampa dresses in ao dai, a traditional Vietnamese dress for women.
Angelina Nguyen, 3, of Tampa dresses in ao dai, a traditional Vietnamese dress for women. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
A lion dance is performed. It symbolizes the act of warding away evil spirits and bringing good fortune.
A lion dance is performed. It symbolizes the act of warding away evil spirits and bringing good fortune. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Organizers help welcome in the Year of the Dragon by lighting firecrackers, which ward away evil spirits and signal the start of a healthy and prosperous year.
Organizers help welcome in the Year of the Dragon by lighting firecrackers, which ward away evil spirits and signal the start of a healthy and prosperous year. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Lily Thanh Hue sings a traditional Vietnamese song.
Lily Thanh Hue sings a traditional Vietnamese song. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
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Teens perform a traditional dance to Vietnamese pop music.
Teens perform a traditional dance to Vietnamese pop music. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
A banner wishing folks a happy new year is hung on a tree.
A banner wishing folks a happy new year is hung on a tree. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]