Celebrating Tết, the Lunar New Year
Although New Year is over for Americans, Tết is just around the corner for Vietnamese people. What do the Vietnamese do during Tết New Year? Most celebrate it on the eve of Tết.
First, Tết is not just a money giving holiday. To me, Tết means spending time with family and going to see dragon dances at local Vietnamese events on New Year's day. Let me explain why Tết is important to the Vietnamese people.
The Solar New Year for most Americans is a day to celebrate with a New Year's Eve party and a counting down to the New Year. Many Americans don’t do much on the New Year day except to watch football, hang out with people, and greet with, “Happy New Year!"
For Christmas, many Americans go to Mass on Christmas day whereas in our culture we go to the temple to pray for our ancestors. Before heading out to the temple, we give offerings to our ancestors and our multiple deities, and have huge dinners with our families. The meaning behind it? To allow our ancestors to come into our home during the days of Tết celebrations.
In preparation for Tết, we clean the house to keep it spotless and aim to keep ourselves well-groomed. The Vietnamese believe cleaning the house will ward off the evil spirit and welcome our ancestors into our homes. We also try to look nice when we meet with family members and our guests so we keep an upbeat personality. I like this aspect of Tết and it’s meaning to the Vietnamese people.
As for fun traditions, you often hear fireworks at midnight when we light up firecrackers in front of our homes or businesses. The sound of firecrackers is believed to drive away evil spirits. We also hand out li xi, red envelopes with lucky money in them. Children and adults both get these prized envelopes. They are typically given by adults and elders to little kids. In order to receive them, kids are expected to offer polite greetings and wishes of health and longevity to the elders in exchange for these lucky envelopes. And don’t forget about the lion dance! It is pretty good to see at the local supermarkets and businesses as they believe the dance and drums will bring luck and prosperity into their businesses.
One of the greatest things about this holiday is that it's an opportunity for family bonding. The traditions associated with Tết are rich and beautiful and very family oriented. It is an occasion for family reunions, whether it is in the United States or flying back into Vietnam to reunite with extended family members. Tết is a time for people to shed the past and look forward to the future together.
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A San Jose Native and a recent graduate from University of San Jose in Journalism. Though Anthony doesn’t speak Vietnamese, he wants to learn more about the Vietnamese culture and poetry. He strongly believes contributing to Chopsticks Alley will help him learn more about his Vietnamese roots.