Saigon’s Chinatown comes to life with First Full Moon Festival

 The Chinese-Vietnamese community in Saigon brightened the city Tuesday with a colorful parade and dragon dances to mark the First Full Moon Festival.

The parade began at 5 p.m. on Hai Thuong Lan Ong Street, famous for Chinese traditional medicine shops, and went through Chau Van Liem, Lao Tu, Luong Nhu Hoc, and Nguyen Trai streets.

For the ethnic Chinese Hoa people in Vietnam, Nguyen Tieu, or First Full Moon Festival marks the final day of the Lunar New Year celebrations.

Observed on the 15th of the first lunar month, it has become a traditional celebration for the ethnic Chinese community.

Dragon dances are an indispensable part of the Nguyen Tieu festival celebrations.

Stilt walkers dressed as characters from Chinese mythology are a popular attraction.

Women transform into fairies and perform traditional dances.

Dressed in traditional costume, Tran Lam Nghi carries baskets of flowers.

"This is the fourth time I am participating in the festival parade. This year with the pandemic situation better in the city, people crowded along streets to watch the parade, the 20-year-old said.

Last year the Nguyen Tieu celebrations, parade and dragon dance performances were canceled due to the pandemic

People take pictures with performers made up as Than Tai, or Caishen, the Chinese god of property, and the Eight Immortals from Chinese mythology.

On Nguyen Trai Street, Tuan has a drink after performing a dragon dance.

"It was hot and the performance made me tired but I felt happy as people cheered the parade," he said.

From an old apartment on Lao Tu Street, Lam Di An uses her phone to record the procession.

"For us, the Nguyen Tieu Festival is an important occasion as we welcome the first full moon of the year and pray for peace and prosperity," she said.

At 6 p.m. the parade was in front of On Lang Pagoda in District 5, one of the most famous spiritual sites for the Chinese community.

The parade ended at 7:30 p.m. at District 5's Cultural Center.

During the Nguyen Tieu festival, people light lanterns, eat dumplings at home and flock to pagodas and make offerings and pray with special incense or watch hat tuong (Vietnamese-Chinese opera).

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