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Celebrating Vietnamese New Year in style

By Martin Banks

Anyone interested in Asian culture may be aware that we’ve just celebrated the start of the Vietnamese New Year.

It is the most important festival of the year in Vietnam. In 2024, it fell on February 10.

The Lunar New Year, or Tết Nguyên Đán, is Vietnam’s most significant celebration. Across Vietnam, during this time families reunite and honour their ancestors, while praying for luck, prosperity and health in the new year. The public holiday may only run for one week, but in reality, Tết celebrations last much longer.

This year it is the Year of the Dragon (the last year of the dragon in 2012). People born in Dragon years usually possess natural courage, tenacity, and intelligence, often displaying enthusiasm and confidence.

The celebration of New Year carries spiritual values and deep emotional ties, becoming a cherished tradition.

Food is an important component of the celebrations and that applied also to the owner of what is probably the longest-established Vietnamese restaurant in the whole of Belgium.

Katia Nguyen is the Vietnamese-born owner of L’Orchidee Blanche, located in the Ixelles district of Brussels.

She kindly organised a special menu to mark the New Year and the fact that the ambassadors of the U.S and also her native Vietnam were among the many guests reflects the restaurant’s reputation for top class Vietnamese cuisine.

The very welcoming Katia Nguyen, despite nursing a very heavy cold, was on hand to also help showcase some of the wonderful and beautiful traditional Vietnamese tunics worn by women in her homeland.

She often brings these back with her to Belgium when she travels to the Far East and they were displayed – “cat walk” style – during the celebratory meal.

There was also a terrific display of traditional dragon dancing and music by artists from a Liege-based martial arts club.

This restaurant is a trendsetter: it must be one of the few, if not the only one, in Belgium that practices what it preaches about gender equality – virtually all the staff are ladies.

This partly reflects the key role played by women in restaurant businesses back in Vietnam.

Most of the staff here hail originally from Vietnam (sometimes through their parentage as several are Belgian born).
Little wonder that Eurocrats from the EU institutions such as the European commission and parliament and other related places have made this the restaurant of their choice be it for lunch or dinner even though it may be located several kilometres away from their workplace.

The Dragon the most popular sign in the Chinese zodiac and, in Chinese culture, the Dragon holds a significant place as an auspicious and extraordinary creature, unparalleled in talent and excellence.

It symbolizes power, nobility, honour, luck, and success. 2024 is forecasted to bring about opportunities, changes, and challenges. Well, we shall see but one thing is sure: Katia and her hard working team did their bit to get the Year off to the best possible start.

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