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Orchids promise good fortune at the Flower Festival in Little Saigon

16:54 | 11/01/2020

Hong Nguyen finds the cymbidium, commonly known as boat orchids, she sells in her booth at the annual Flower Festival in Little Saigon “mesmerizing,” describing the plant’s blossoms as lips “ready to kiss you.”

orchids promise good fortune at the flower festival in little saigon Tet Festival 2020 underway in HCM City
orchids promise good fortune at the flower festival in little saigon Rat-shaped bonsai popular in Vietnam ahead of Tet
orchids promise good fortune at the flower festival in little saigon Tet get-together held for Vietnamese expat in RoK

Her display started as a small stall of 25 plants by the sidewalk. But in its 15 years, it has become one of the biggest booths at the Westminster festival, with the display of hundreds of orchids stretching for yards.

Every January, thousands walk by Nguyen’s booth and others’, buying orchids in hopes of bringing good fortune in the year to come. It is a tradition of the Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebration, which falls on Jan 25 this year.

orchids promise good fortune at the flower festival in little saigon

Hanh Nguyen arranges flowers at the Flower Festival while surrounded by Cybidium, or boat orchids, at the Ba Tu Trai Cay Ngon booth in Westminster, CA on Saturday, January 4, 2020. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

orchids promise good fortune at the flower festival in little saigon

Hang Nguyen is framed through good luck Lunar New Year items at the Flower Festival in Westminster, CA on Saturday, January 4, 2020. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

orchids promise good fortune at the flower festival in little saigon

It’s the year of the rat and this lucky rodent is ready for purchase at the Flower Festival in Westminster, CA on Saturday, January 4, 2020. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

orchids promise good fortune at the flower festival in little saigon

Cybidium, or boat orchids, are ready to bloom at the Ba Tu Trai Cay Ngon booth during Little Saigon’s Flower Festival in Westminster, CA on Saturday, January 4, 2020. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)​​​​​​

orchids promise good fortune at the flower festival in little saigon

Good luck items celebrating the Vietnamese Lunar New Year are for sale at the Flower Festival in Westminster, CA on Saturday, January 4, 2020. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

orchids promise good fortune at the flower festival in little saigon

An inflatable dragon greets little and big visitors to the Flower Festival in Westminster, CA on Saturday, January 4, 2020. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

orchids promise good fortune at the flower festival in little saigon

These orchids have the blues at the Flower Festival in Westminster, CA on Saturday, January 4, 2020. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

orchids promise good fortune at the flower festival in little saigon

Liana Mask 5, hangs out at her parent’s food booth during the Flower Festival in Westminster, CA on Saturday, January 4, 2020. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

orchids promise good fortune at the flower festival in little saigon

Graceful orchids are on sale at the Flower Festival in Westminster, CA on Saturday, January 4, 2020. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

orchids promise good fortune at the flower festival in little saigon

Eye-catching orchids beckon passers-by at the Tu Vien Cat Tuong booth during Little Saigon’s Flower Festival in Westminster, CA on Saturday, January 4, 2020. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Nguyen’s Lunar New Year orchid business grew from her own family’s tradition of bringing one or two orchids to the home as a symbol of good fortune, richness and a luxurious lifestyle. Over time, it also became a way to remember the family’s native home of Vietnam and her grandparents.

“When you have this, it shows prosperity, that you can afford it,” she said. It is “all good energy and happiness, and so much good living.”

By the early 2000s, Nguyen and her family started setting up a booth at the festival.

The Flower Festival is a space for her community to come together, she said. She watches as grandparents in walkers take photos with their grandchildren. She has seen long-lost friends, once separated in Vietnam, reunited at the festival after years apart.

“We see happiness in the people and the Vietnamese community,” she said.

Every year, Nguyen drives hours to a nursery in Northern California to pick up hundreds of orchids. She gets up at 3:30 a.m. every day, she said, to set up her booth. She knows what orchids mean for her and her community this time of year; hoping to find a new nursery for next year.

“It’s a sign of a new year,” Nguyen said of the orchids. “A sign of spring.”

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