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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Vietnamese community celebrates Lunar New Year

A night of color, flavor and Vietnamese gambling celebrating the Year of the Dragon
Photo by Kyle Heise
International Studies senior Winnie Chang smiles as she plays the game Xin Xâm at the Vietnamese Student Association’s Lunar New Year celebration on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024. (Kyle Heise/The Battalion)

The Vietnamese Student Association, or VSA, entered the Year of the Dragon with a roar of festivities and enough color to light up Rudder Plaza. The crowd consisted of students from various parts of the globe, a flux of performers and local Vietnamese families. 

The outdoor Lunar New Year celebration had an itinerary with a traditional lion dance, fashion show and diabolo Chinese yoyo demo along with tables with food and games. 

Mathematics senior Timothy Nguyen, vice president of VSA, worked as an anchor for the night after planning the celebration since October. 

“Just for the night, gambling is good,” Nguyen said, encouraging attendees to participate in bầu cua, a Vietnamese gambling game, before announcing the lineup of performances. 

“One of the biggest differences between the celebrations from last year is that we moved the event from inside the MSC to the Rudder Plaza and that has really enhanced people’s experience,” Nguyen said. “I’m proud to see that VSA has grown from a 10 people organization in the 1970s to more than 300 members today.”

Community health junior Michelle Tran said the rules of the event were simple. No money was required from participants, only the zeal to participate. 

“You can get food or a custom event shirt if you grab enough tickets,” Michelle said. “You can gather tickets by signing in, playing the infamous bầu cua or … taking part in the games being run by other Asian and Pacific Islander student organizations.”

Bầu cua is a traditional Vietnamese gambling game adapted for the Lunar New Year event to encourage participation. Attendees could bet on one of six animal figures. If the dice rolled in their favor, they could walk away with double the tickets, which were the pathway to free food and merchandise, or risk losing their fortune if it didn’t. 

Chemical engineering junior and Director of Public Relations for the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers Charisa Chairat said they were hosting a game for attendees to compete in by moving objects of different shapes and textures from one bowl to another with chopsticks.

“We’re not here to recruit,” Chairat said. “We’re here to host a fun game for people to play and be part of the crowd. The fastest completion has been 11.18 seconds so far, and we’ve made sushi for all our participants.”

Performances from various groups celebrated the new year. Finance sophomore Christian Trinh said he was part of a 30-person dance group from the Houston area that rehearsed for the lion dance performance each year, looking forward to their performance at Texas A&M.

“Most of the group doesn’t even attend A&M but we travel each year to celebrate the Lunar New Year with VSA and the Aggie community,” Trinh said.  

Biomedical sciences junior Megan Yang, one of the diabolo performers, said she’s part of the Taiwanese American Student Association and has attended the VSA Lunar New Year all three years of her undergrad. 

“We started the diabolo group three years ago because a couple of people were interested,” Yang said. “It has grown from four people to 10 people that we teach diabolo skills from the ground up. We all enjoy performing here because we get a great audience each year.”

Computer science freshman Khoi Tran said he joined VSA as soon as he entered A&M and is receiving formal training from current leadership to host a grander Lunar New Year celebration next year. 

“My work is to prep behind the scenes and learn in depth the tasks that the officers do to make each event successful,” Khoi said. “Most of the future leaders join VSA as freshmen, and we have internal mentorship programs that allow members to gain hands-on leadership experiences so we can keep making each VSA event bigger and better.”

Mechanical engineering sophomore Savanah Phan serves as the social chair for VSA and said the Lunar New Year celebration is memorable because it is free of cost for all attendees. 

“I love that the crowd keeps getting bigger each year,” Phan said. “We work tirelessly the rest of the year with concessions, fundraisers and gathering local donations from sponsors to make this event as big and fun as possible.”

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