My Vietnamese Lunar New Year

Today it’s the Vietnamese old year and tomorrow the Lunar New Year, Tết or Tết Nguyên Đán starts. I had heard about this “lunar” New Year before, but was not really much aware about what it really involves. Dragons and Gods right and a different calendar or something? Like the Chinese thing…

Not so much and here’s why.

Lunar New Year is the time when the Vietnamese people give a lick of paint to their houses and decorate the house with a mandarin tree. Being together with a Vietnamese local, today I had the chance to participate in a traditional Vietnamese old/new year’s ceremony. This is basically the start of the Lunar New Year — the Black Dragon is 2012’s theme. Let me first set the record straight. It is not a religion thing. Every family does it. It is more about the Buddhist tradition.

Here’s how I experienced it.

On the table, there was a nice yellow flower. You don’t see much different colored flowers for celebrations by the way, like what we are used to in Europe. As for the food, there will be rice (obviously), a chicken, soup, pork liver, some pork sausages, salad and rather spicy Korean kim chi. And rice wine. Finally, Banh Chung. Banh Chung is some sort of cake comprised of pork and rice and layered with rice again. They cover it in some green leaves. Quite special. It’s different, but tasty enough.

Initially and before the actual food festivity can start, there will be three bowls of rice and three small cups of rice wine. This is to worship the Gods. Then the incense will be lighted. Only when the incense is fully burned, one can commence to eat. This was a bit striking to me.

Another ritual is that the people will keep papers. These papers will then be burnt. I was kind of surprised to see burn the beautiful colorful papers. Also, fake money (including mock dollars) will be burnt outside the house. By giving this to the Gods, they will take good care of the dead people.

I am kind of lucky to be here, close to a local that protects me as it isn’t always friendliness and kindness around here. There are also corrupt and mean people of course and you need to be constantly alert everywhere in the public.

But I am in good hands, with a good and warm family.

Anyways, I am pretty much excited for my last week here. It’s Tet! Couldn’t be a better time to come here too. It is the perfect weather. No rainy season, just sun all day. What else can one wish for…

And tonight there will be fireworks!

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