As I’m writing down these words I’m celebrating Vietnamese Lunar New Year with my family members and friends. We call it Tet in Vietnamese. The traditional Tet of Vietnamese people is calculated by the lunar calendar, thus Tet often occurs at the end of January or early February.
I had a chance to talk with my Irish flat mate about ways that Irish and Vietnamese people celebrate their New Year. Some things similar and some things different – Of course, two nations, two cultures. Yet, no matter where we come from, New Year is the occasion of family reunion. It is the time when family members come back home and spend their time together. It is the time when young adults being away return home and live in a family atmosphere after a busy working year. They can decorate their house together and prepare traditional dishes for the special holiday. All are done with a hope for a healthy, happy, lucky and successful year ahead. The period of New Year is the time when people sit down and have meals together, talk to one another, look back to the previous year and wish one another the best for the year to come. It’s at this time that people often feel a sort of release, are forgiving and move towards a brighter future for all the family members. No matter where in the world you come from, these meanings of New Year are still the same.
Vietnamese people celebrate the traditional Tet in their own way. Firstly, it is essential to mark traditional Vietnamese cuisine on this special occasion. Chung cake (Banh Chung) is made from very familiar ingredients for all Vietnamese such as sticky rice, green beans and pork, which is wrapped in green leaves and boiled for a duration of between 10 – 12 hours. According to Vietnames legend, Chung cake represents the symbol of Earth because it combines all unique ingredients of Vietnamese agriculture. As the Vietnamese saying goes “Seeing Chung cake means Tet is coming”.
In the period of Tet holiday people can see peaches, apricots and kumquats blossom in trees in every single corner of Vietnam. They only appear when Tet comes. The light red of the peach blossom is believed to bring prosperity, happiness and success while the yellow of the apricot blossom represents luck, unity and wellbeing. Tet is not simply Tet if any one of them is missing.
On New Year’s Eve family members often send their best wishes to one another, especially the eldery and kids. Lucky money is put in a red envelope and given to them. The colour of red symbolises good health, luck, happiness, and peacefulness. People wish their parents and kids well in the forthcoming New Year.
This Tet I am away from home and celebrate the traditional holiday in another way, together with other Vietnamese students who are studying in Ireland. We got together and prepared a simple Tet party in Dublin with some traditional dishes. We were together, hand in hand, talked about the Tet and shared our experiences in Ireland so far. We feel so close in the valuable friendship here, but of course we all miss home, and miss our Tet.
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