Despite cold weather and rain, more than 1,000 overseas Vietnamese gathered at a special event at Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi on Jan. 15 evening to celebrate the coming Tet (Lunar New Year) Festival.

The annual Xuan Que Huong (Spring in the Homeland) event is held eight days before Tet to welcome Vietnamese expatriates returning home for their country's biggest festival.

Addressing the event, President Truong Tan Sang said Vietnam has made important achievements, including economic growth, ensuring social security, keeping social and political order and improving the country's prestige in the international arena, thanks to the efforts and contributions made by the whole nation, including overseas Vietnamese communities.

"The Party and State always affirm that overseas Vietnamese communities are an inseparable part of the Vietnamese nation and always try their best to support Vietnamese expatriates to help develop the economy, stabilise their lives and keep their traditional characteristics," Sang said.

Vietnamese expatriate Nguyen Quoc Trong, a 68-year-old who has lived in France for more than 20 years, said he is really surprised and moved by the programme of performances at the event.

"This is the first time I got to see such a programme. We are really moved by the familiar images of the homeland through songs and videos shown and they make us warm despite the cold weather," he said.

His wife, Nguyen Minh Luan, said participating at the event will make this year's Tet all the more memorable and meaningful.

"I will have lots of things to tell my children and grandchildren in France about the atmosphere of a traditional Tet festival in the homeland," she said.

"It is totally different when celebrating Tet in the homeland. Visiting relatives, famous local landscapes and enjoying traditional food during the festive season is something that can only be done in Vietnam .

"In France , we often join cultural activities held by the Vietnamese community in France on special occasions such as Independence Day (September 2) or Tet, and this draws the participation of thousands of Vietnamese expatriates and is a good way to help us feel like we are home."

For 20-year-old Nguyen Thuy Hien, an expatriate from Germany , celebrating Tet in the homeland is also a much cherished opportunity.

"Words fail me when trying to express my feelings during my first Tet in Vietnam , my homeland. I arrived here one week ago and felt the atmosphere of Tet in every corner of the city," she said.

"You can see many quat (kumquat trees) and dao (peach blossom), the symbol of Tet as my mom often told me, being sold along the street... it's a scene you can not see in Germany."

Speaking about their new year's wishes, they all said they hope Vietnam will continue to develop and provide a source of pride for all Vietnamese expatriates.

"Particularly, we wish Vietnam , with contributions from overseas Vietnamese, will quickly overcome the difficulties and challenges of the world economic crisis," Trong said.

There are an estimated 4 million Vietnamese expatriates around the world./.