Thursday, February 3, 2011

Vietnamese New Year – Part 2

Chuc Mung Nam Moi!

ChucMungNamMoi11(Image Source)

That's "Happy New Year!" in Vietnamese.  If you're Vietnamese, you'll be hearing that a lot during the next several weeks. Today is Vietnamese New Year (Chinese New Year, Lunar New Year, whatever you want to call it), or just "Tet" in Vietnamese. We say goodbye to the Year of the Tiger and welcome the Year of the Cat! Yes, the Chinese will be welcoming the Year of the Rabbit because our zodiacs differ, but that's another story for another time.

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In Vietnam, the New Year celebrations start today and traditionally last for 3 days. There will be parades and lion dancers (like the one pictured above) in town centers across the country, markets will be bustling with activity 24 hours a day, and homes will be full of loved ones from near and far. Tet celebrations are all about starting the new year off in a positive way in hopes that the good fortune will last the entire year. It is a time for families and friends to come together and is always filled with laughter, music, firecrackers, and traditional New Year's food and drink, of course.

Growing up, Tet was always the most festive time in our home. Mom and Grandma would cook up so many traditional foods, there was always platters of fresh fruits and candy on every table, and Mom always had the traditional bright yellow "hoa mai" blossom tree up in the living room. It is a time to celebrate with family, to wish good fortune to everyone you see, to pay a visit and bring gifts to friends and neighbors, and to remember loved one who have passed away.

For many older generation Vietnamese, it is also a time to add another year to one's age. Individual birthday celebrations were not a common practice in the Vietnamese culture, so it was traditional for everyone to just turn another year older on New Year's Day. To me, it sure seems like a good idea to mark a new beginning to another year in your life as well as in the calendar. Kind of makes sense, doesn't it?

Since it was also a time for celebration of age, younger children would formerly wish elder relatives not only prosperity & good health in the coming year, but also a long and happy life. In return for their well wishes, each elder would give each child a little red envelope (li xi) filled with money to bring them luck. Sometimes, adults gave one another red envelopes, not filled with money, but with cards or letters wishing them good fortune in the coming year.

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(Image Source)

As a child, the one thing that I looked forward to the most during Tet were these little red envelopes. Hello! They were filled with lucky money! They would have anywhere from $1 to $100 depending on which relative gave it to you, so it was always an exciting time to receive them and then wait all day to open them up later. This money almost always went to buying school supplies or school clothes, but sometimes we would be allowed to spend it on toys and games, so that was the best! Hooray for Tet!

Now as an adult, I appreciate so much more the idea of the red envelope as a symbol to bring good luck and well wishes, not just a holder for money. In it, there is history, culture, and tradition. So on this day, the first day of the Year of the Cat, I give to you a symbolic red envelope.

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(Image Source)
May your next three days and the entire year thereafter be filled with laughter, family, friends, good food, and good times. I wish you prosperity, good health, success, and above all -- much happiness. Happy New Year!

Also on this New Year's Day, as is customary halfway around the world in Vietnam, my mother turns 60. During my childhood, she never did make a fuss about her birthday and she definitely never had a birthday party. But this year is her 60th and if I know my Aunties, a little bit of a fuss might be in order. IMG_5057a

(I took this pic when we were in Vietnam Dec 2009)

Happy 60th, Mom! Love you, miss you, and wish we were all there to celebrate with you!

~T
Thanks, as always, T.  I learned a lot myself, even after being a part of a Vietnamese family for the last 15 years! I also want to wish my wonderful Mother-in-law a happy 60th halfway around the world!  We love and miss you very very much!  Logan sends his Ba Noi lots of hugs and kisses!

If you'd like to make your own dragons to celebrate New Year's, check out these tutorials: Dragon Puppet or Dragon Costume.

And here are some etsy finds for your use this New Year's!
1. Love these printable New Year's cards from Leapfrog Lane!  And since they are printable, you can use them this year or next!

2. These felt magnets from Yuzucha will be cute on your fridge all year long to celebrate the Year of the Cat!

Happy New Year, everyone!  
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3 comments:

Christine @ Pure Joy Events said...

Chuc Mung Nam Moi! We'll be celebrating the New Year with a very non-traditional get together with friends and family on Saturday. Thanks for sharing your stories.

G and H said...

Chuc Mung Nam Moi, Christine!! Hope your New Year's celebration is full of joy!

christine@leapfroglane said...

Chuc Mung Nam Moi! I hope you had a wonderful holiday! I really enjoyed reading about the Vietnamese celebrations for the Lunar New Year. And I greatly appreciate the compliments on the card design!

Happy Year of the Cat!

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