The Genesis Event Center in north Spokane was packed with people of many ethnicities Saturday to celebrate Vietnamese Heritage Day.
They came to learn about Vietnamese culture, eat Vietnamese food and watch Vietnamese dances.
“I think it’s interesting to know, to learn,” said Rose Oas, who is from the Philippines, as she nibbled an assortment of Vietnamese cuisine.
Oas said she loves to learn about history, but that isn’t the only reason she came to the event. “I love Vietnamese food,” she said. “It’s my number one.”
The afternoon began with speeches in both English and Vietnamese. Speakers frequently gave thanks to the American soldiers who fought and died during the Vietnam War. Many of the 6,000 Vietnamese who live in the Spokane area arrived after the war.
Organizer Thuy Nguyen was pleased with the turnout that filled the event center. “This is something we do every year,” she said. “We aim to educate the public who want to learn about Vietnamese culture.”
Part of Saturday’s program was a ritual that shows gratitude toward one’s ancestors. Four men in traditional garb stood and knelt before an altar covered with flowers, incense and offerings of food and wine. A man in a South Vietnamese Army uniform occasionally struck a drum and a woman in traditional clothing sounded a gong.
It is only recently that the ritual has been opened up to the public, Nguyen said. “This would typically be held in private,” she said.
Several elected officials were present during the ceremonies, and Mayor David Condon sent a video greeting along with a proclamation proclaiming April 25 Vietnamese Heritage Day.
A group of nine Hmong girls dressed in white and turquoise dresses danced on stage, bells hung from their crowns and belts jingling. The Hmong are an indigenous people that live in Vietnam and other east and southeast Asian countries.
They were followed by six members of the Vietnamese Buddhist Youth Group, who each wore traditional clothing and used two conical leaf hats to emphasize their graceful, flowing dance.
One of the goals of Vietnamese Heritage Day is to teach people the legends that are part of their history, Nguyen said. Several of those were explained in a program handed out to attendees and one was acted out on stage in a Vietnamese opera.
The opera focused on two warrior sisters, Trung Trac and Trung Nhi, who are known for riding elephants into battles in 40 AD. The two are revered in Vietnamese Culture for their role in resisting the occupying Han Dynasty of China.
“We come from a matriarchal culture,” Nguyen said.
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