By Abby Hoover
Chuc mung nam me! Happy Vietnamese New Year!
As the first authentic Vietnamese coffee truck in Kansas City – soon to be a physical business – Cafe Ca Phe has reserved space for Asian Americans and other marginalized communities since owner Jackie Nguyen burst onto the local coffee scene in 2020.
This week they are celebrating the start of the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, Tet NguyÃªn ÄÃ¡n (Tet). Although Vietnam and China, as well as other Asian cultures, use the lunar calendar, the Vietnamese have unique customs, celebrations and traditions for the Lunar New Year.
CafÃ© CÃ PhÃª’s Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebration was held in The Nelle, 1818 McGee, Sunday, January 30 before February 1 holiday. Booths of more than a dozen local Asian-owned businesses were present. CafÃ© CÃ PhÃª Community Action Director Bety hosted story time, followed by a variety of performances and dances from Indonesia, Korea, Japan and Vietnam.
“It’s amazing, I’m so honored to have the Kansas City community come out to celebrate one of the greatest celebrations ever,” Nguyen said. “I know there’s a large population of Asians here in Kansas City, and also Vietnamese who are probably extremely excited just to have something to gather and celebrate.”
Many were dressed in Ã¡o dÃ i, which translates to “long shirt” in English, a traditional silk evening dress with a high collar.
Lunar New Year is one of the most important celebrations of the year among East and Southeast Asian cultures, including Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean communities. The New Year celebration is usually celebrated for several days.
Tied to the lunar calendar, the holiday began as a time of celebration and to honor household and celestial deities, as well as ancestors. The New Year usually begins with the first new moon which occurs between the end of January and spans the first 15 days of the first month of the lunar calendar – until the full moon arrives.
Nguyen, his vendors and his staff welcomed everyone to the celebration. For those unfamiliar with the celebration, there were many ways to get involved.
“They’re going to learn a lot about our culture,” Nguyen said. âThey are going to learn the zodiac signs of animals and how it happened. They will try a lot of new foods, new cuisines, new desserts. We have Vietnamese food, we have Thai food, we have desserts from Japan, and also different flavors from different Asian cultures.
Each year of the lunar calendar is represented by one of the 12 zodiac animals included in the cycle of 12 stations or “signs” along the apparent path of the sun through the cosmos – rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. Additionally, five elements of earth, water, fire, wood, and metal are also charted on the traditional lunar calendar. Each year is associated with an animal that corresponds to an element.
The year 2022 is the Year of the Water Tiger, which occurs every 60 years. The Water Tiger is action oriented and represents strength, eliminating evil and bravery.
DONE MOBB Co-owner Vu Radley proudly presented Year of the Tiger products, his latest release.
Radley, a Vietnamese-American, was born in the year of the Tiger, but has been designing Lunar New Year clothing for a few years.
âSo last year we made the year of the beef shirt,â Radley said. “And then this year is actually my year, I’m a tiger, and so I had to make one for this one.”
Radley was impressed with the first Lunar New Year celebration at Cafe CÃ PhÃª.
âIt showcases the traditions that we as Vietnamese go through every year from January to February,â Radley said. “So it was crazy to be able to just show up, drop that shirt, you just had to do it for the culture.”
MADE MOBB has been producing Midwestern streetwear since 2013, crafting every piece with Midwestern values ââin mind â hard work, craftsmanship, culture and community â at their 221 Southwest Boulevard store.
“We haven’t done anything too crazy before, I mean I’ve done it with my family and things like that, but not a pop-up like this,” Radley said. âI think CÃ PhÃª cafe came to the city and they did a really good job of bringing that to the fore, you know, its background and its culture which is Vietnamese.â
Like CafÃ© CÃ PhÃª, Radley hopes this event will continue to grow each year.
“I’m glad she’s doing this, hopefully every year it gets bigger and crazier for them,” Radley said. “We will always love to be a part of it. Lunar New Year is about having fun, being happy, showing love and passing it on to others.
Radley said the Lunar New Year is the time to prepare for the new year and jump into the new year as happy, prosperous and healthy as possible.
“It’s a great event to do with family and friends, and I love that Jackie brings that to the forefront and to the public too, so other people from other cultures can benefit from what we’re doing” , Radley said.
Cafe CÃ PhÃª raises funds to open a traditional cafe in Columbus Park on Fifth Street. Many small businesses involved in Sunday’s event donated a portion of their earnings to the cause. The CafÃ© CÃ PhÃª GoFundMe can be found here: www.gofundme.com/f/help-cafe-c-ph-build-our-brick-and-mortar.