More than 3,000 Vietnamese celebrated the upcoming New Year holiday on Sunday with traditional Vietnamese song and dance, flamingo dancing and lucky draws in one of the largest Vietnamese gatherings to take place in Taiwan.
The "Vui Don Xuan Moi 2006," held at the Armed Forces Cultural Center in downtown Taipei provided Vietnamese who work in northern Taiwan with a taste of the New Year's atmosphere back home. Vietnamese traditionally share the same Lunar New Year tradition as Taiwanese.
"It gives me sadness and nostalgia that I can't be home with my family for the new year, " said a 26-year-old girl who only identified herself as Dao.
"We can't even make our way into the hall, but it feels good to be able to see all my compatriots and chat a little bit. It's good enough for me," she added.
The Vietnamese have almost the same New Year traditions and rituals as the Chinese, Dao said.
"The whole family has dinner on New Year's Eve and worships their ancestors. It's almost the same as [the Chinese]," she said.
More than 1,000 people jammed into the hall, which has a capacity of just 810, to enjoy a series of traditional Vietnamese songs and dances performed by a group of volunteers.
Some of them won prizes provided by sponsors, including digital cameras and pre-paid telephone cards, in a quiz on foreign labor regulations and a lucky draw.
For those who couldn't get in, chatting on the sidewalk with friends was just as good.
"Usually we don't have a chance like this to meet so many Vietnamese and talk," said Nguyen The Ahn, who, like Dao, comes from Hao Binh, a two-hour drive south of Hanoi, and works at an electronics company in Taipei County.
About 70 percent of the Vietnamese in the crowd were female, with many wearing traditional Vietnamese dresses called Ao Dai.
Trihn Ngoc Hoa, who has been working in Taiwan for four years as a housekeeper, was all smiles when she accepted a trophy on stage.
"It was a call-in Mandarin-speech competition. Fortunately I won," she said.
"We expected 1,000 people to show up -- 2,000 at most. But the feedback has been both tremendous and surprising," said a worker from Western Union, one of the sponsors of the event.
The crowd went crazy when the organizers started distributing Vietnamese calendars outside the hall.
"It's a wonderful afternoon. Being able to take a break from work, talk to friends and meet all these people from Vietnam really relaxes us," Nguyen, 27, said.
The event was organized by the Vietnam Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei, the Council of Labor Affairs (COA) and Taipei City Government. It was hosted by Taiwan Radio.
Currently there are 85,528 Vietnamese workers in Taiwan, according to statistics released by the COA, with 42 percent of them working in Taipei City, Taipei County or Taoyuan County.