“Chuc Mung Nam Moi!” One of my favorite things to hear and say growing up. Many of us remember Tet as wearing Ao Dai’s and receiving the red envelopes from our elders. But what is the real significance of it? It’s a time for family and friends to gather and to eat the traditional foods such as banh day, banh day, young bamboo soup (canh mang), and sticky rice as well as catch up with one another. Tet is almost identical to New Year’s in that Tet brings a closure to the old year and a chance to get things right in the next. Although Tet, is not a national holiday in America it sure feels like it.
When I was younger I was very fortunate to travel to Vietnam to experience what a traditional tet is like and from that experience I was blown away. When we first arrived you can see all the shops decorated with firecrackers and words painted in front, as well as fruits. In Vietnam the children get two weeks off school to help their parents prepare for the yearly event. Everyone participates in this event from the babies to the older generations. Houses are cleaned from the bottom to the top and windows that haven’t been open in months are open in order to let the good light in and to fill the house with brightness. Little girls and boys are getting new clothes and outfits for the special days, while women are getting Ao dai’s made preferably in the lucky colors red and yellow. Family’s go to the supermarket weeks in advance to make sure they will have everything they need. They would pick the ripest and freshest fruits they can find and arrange them in a pyramid to put as an offering. Finally on the day of, the fruit is laid out, the banh chung and banh trang is put into place, the drinks are ready, and the parents and children are ready to light the nhang. As the nhang is lite, many will pray either for good luck, good fortune, or for the health of the family. They will also pray for the year to be good with no obstacles and for the happiness of their family. Once that is done a party is usually thrown! Either with family or friends, and the children will line up will the adults pass red envelopes to each one individually. The envelopes are filled with brand new lucky money, the red color of the envelopes represent luck and is supposed to ward off the evil spirits. Married couples usually give them out to single people and to children.
Although Little Saigon Westminster is not Vietnam it is a
close second. Whenever I am missing the fun nights at the market I can just go
to Phuoc Loc Tho during Tet and experience the memory all over
again. Here we’re able to pick out orchids, and buy fireworks which we light in
hopes to scare off the bad spirits from ruining our year. We also get to see
the dragon dancers, with their loud music bringing joy and laughter to all the
kids watching. During this time of year every single bakery smells fresh of the
delicious meat wrapped in sticky rice which you can then fry or eat steamed.
However, it is always common to eat it with some salty soy sauce. Every year I
remember going with my mom to the night markets and picking out specific fruits
to put in a basket. I always thought that it was just their for the looks, but
actually the fruits symbolize wealth as well as a year filled with good
fortune. Also right before the actual day of Tet, my family plans weeks
in advance. We must clean and decorate the house, get traditional clothes, and
light the nhang’s while making offerings to our elders. Although America and Vietnam are thousands of miles
apart as well as an ocean apart, the traditions of Tet remains the same;
spend time with family and friends, eat great food, and of course bring in the
New year with a bang!