Voyage to Vietnam: Celebrating the Tet Festival, which opened this past weekend at Miami Children’s Museum, offers children and families the chance to learn about Vietnamese culture, cuisine and customs surrounding the Vietnamese New Year, known as Tet – the most important and celebrated holiday in Vietnam.
Tet celebrates the coming of spring. During the exhibit’s opening, a group of five dancers treated the audience to a Spring Flower dance. After, other performers enacted a lion dance, wearing a life-size puppet costume traditionally worn by performers during the Tet festivities.
Inside the exhibit, kids can try on a gigantic purple lion dance mask and can sit on a scooter, a common means of transportation within the Southeast Asian county’s lively cities.
Kids can spin a zodiac wheel and land on one of 12 animals, like the water buffalo or rooster, which coincide with specific years on the lunar calendar. Personality traits of each animal and person who shares the birth year, are then shown.
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Families can also take photos together with the backdrop of a decorated Vietnamese living room. The digital photos then appear on a wall mixed with real photos of traditional families in Vietnam.
A bamboo stick, affixed to the floor, offers a daring adventure to kids and parents alike, who try and walk atop the “bamboo bridge” without falling — while balancing two large woven baskets fasted to a slimmer bamboo stick on their shoulders.
Vietnamese instruments such as a bamboo flute, and a moon lute, which resembles a banjo, are on display.
In the kitchen, kids can see what foods are traditionally used in Vietnamese cuisine. Banh chungare sticky rice buns cakes filled with pork and mung beans and wrapped in banana leaves. A place card above the display of the banh chung, in an iron-like pot, tells how families in Vietnam cook this meal together and eat it a midnight during Tet.
A fruit and vegetable market, constructed to look like a Vietnamese food stand, offers kids the opportunity to see and touch exotic produce. A mock kitchen lets kids “pretend cook” with plastic Vietnamese foods. Large scale photos of colorful Vietnamese street scenes and markets line some of the walls.
Debbie Spiegelman, the museum’s executive director and CEO, says of the exhibit: “This is a unique cultural opportunity for children and their families to experience. It enables children to have an open mind and teaches them about the bigger world around them. Miami is such a diverse community; we wanted to reinforce that.”
Lucila Moreira, of Miami Beach, brought her two young sons to the opening of the exhibit. “It’s beautiful, colorful and interactive,” she said. “My kids loved the cooking and the lion dance the most.” She said they often frequent Vietnamese restaurants in Miami but that Voyage to Vietnam offers good exposure to the culture and customs.
If you go
▪ What: Voyage to Vietnam: Celebrating the Tet Festival at the Miami Children’s Museum.
▪ Where: 980 MacArthur Causeway (on Watson Island), Miami, Florida, 33132
▪ When: Open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Exhibit lasts until May 8.
▪ Admission: $18 for adults and children; $14 for Florida residents; free for children under 1 year; complimentary for MCM members and U.S. Military personnel and veterans.
▪ Contact: 305-373-KIDS (5437) or visit www.miamichildrensmuseum.org