Take the family on a journey to Vietnam for a fantastic celebration of the New Year! This new exhibit at the Portland Children’s Museum celebrates the Tet Festival, the traditional celebration of the coming of spring in Vietnam. Whether you have ancient roots, Vietnamese roots or your family is new to the culture, kids will love exploring the sights, sounds and tastes of one of Vietnam’s most important celebrations of the year. Your kids will get the chance to dance with lions, shop at a market, and create their own fireworks display! Read on for more about this fantastic event.
photo: via Discovery Children’s Museum of San Jose
This traveling exhibit called Voyage to Vietnam: Celebrating the Tet Festival, originated in the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose—our version has contributions and input from the local Vietnamese community: artists, designers, dance and music performers, college students, and even librarians. With plenty of things to see, read, hold, and play with, the displays have things for young toddlers all the way up to 12 year-olds. Even parents may learn a few things! The special installation runs until May 6 this year.
Upon entering, ring the gong to get ready for the celebrations. With big bunches of traditional yellow chrysanthemums everywhere, you’ll get a glimpse of the colorful fun that Vietnam shows off during the festival. Kids can play a few games right off the bat—like testing their balance on the bamboo bridge with no handrails. Don’t fall off! Make it extra hard for older kids with the hanging baskets on a pole.
Then there’s a version of the traditional bau cua ca cop, a betting game. This board game has been made big to enjoy (no money required!). Drop a colorful dice down the tube, then stand on a colored tile on the floor. If the fallen die matches the color you’re standing on, you win! Toddlers will have fun watching the big dice plunk down the tube, and older kids will love “betting” on their colors.
Next up, hop on a scooter ride to the market! The traditional outdoor marketplace is where many Vietnamese get their supplies for the celebrations. Kids of all ages can use the colorful baskets to load up on papaya, coconut, starfruit, custard apples, fish, and eggs. Don’t forget the lucky red carp! The fresh fruit, along with figs, make up the five special fruits that go on the ancestral altar.
Inside the southern-style house, even more pretend play awaits. Colorful silk tunics of all sizes sit in a chest. Kids can put on the costumes and take a picture by the family altar—then watch as their photo shows up on the wall! And in the kitchen, an array of bowls, pots, pans, chopsticks, and soup spoons let children pretend to cook meals like rice and hard boiled eggs, staples of the country. They can even peek in the outdoor kitchen where a giant pot cooks soup. While they cook, older kids can explore videos and listen to people talking about their favorite Tet Festival memories. One man, Ky Anh Truong, tells about the lucky red envelopes he collected as a kid every year, and the competitions he’d have with his cousins to see who could get the most. (See if you can spot the red envelopes anywhere in the house!)
You’ll also learn about how important it is to sweep and clean to get ready for the new year. Then practice that traditional with straw brooms. Make sure it’s all clean!
The fun still continues, with a big lion head kids can stand inside and move around—toddlers might be a little timid to try it out, but older kids will love practicing roaring the big mouth. In the Music Pavilion instruments like a moon lute, a monochord, a bamboo flute, and a zither are on display to touch and hear what they sound like.\
Before You Go
Every Tet Festival includes fireworks, and this one is no exception. “At midnight, fireworks signal the chance from the old year to the new,” and kids can join in by creating their own fireworks show, then watching it come to life above them! With all this fun, your family will love traveling to Vietnam and learning about the Tet Festival. As you leave, wish everyone around a Chúc Mừng Năm Mới (Happy New Year)!
Admission $10.75, free for members and children under 1
Feb. 9- May 6, 2018, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily
Portland Children’s Museum
4015 SW Canyon Road
What’s your favorite way to celebrate the new year? Tell us in the comments below!