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Little Saigon Flower Festival heralds the lunar new year

The lunar new year is less than two weeks away and families across Southern California are cleaning up and decorating their homes to welcome in the new year. 

Colorful flower markets are traditional in Vietnam at this time of year, and Vietnamese-Americans have brought that tradition to Orange County, where the Asian Garden Mall in Little Saigon hosts an annual flower festival in its front parking lot. 

On a sunny morning, Sandy Nguyen shook the water from the recent rains off plastic sleeves encircling colorful orchids lined up along the front of her stall. 

“This a cattleya,” she explained, pointing to an orchid with purple and white blooms. “In the afternoon, they have a fragrance. It smells really nice.” 

Hers is among several dozen outdoor stalls selling flowers, miniature fruit trees and red and gold decorations to help ring in the new year.

“They bring a lot of good luck and healthy and happy to the family,” Nguyen said. 

Orange County’s Little Saigon, which straddles Westminster and Garden Grove, is home to the second largest Vietnamese population in the U.S. (Northern California’s San Jose has the largest.)

People buy flowers to decorate their homes for the new year and the annual Tet festival, and they give them to family and friends as gifts. 

Many of Nguyen’s orchids are imported from abroad, and one, a “Rosedust” orchid, or Laelia anceps, costs a cool $2,000. But she and others had plenty of beauties for under $10. 

The flower festival ends Jan. 26, two days before the new year.