Vietnamese and Lunar New Year

Like the Chinese, the Vietnamese also welcome their lunar new year (tet) by cleaning the house and settling any outstanding debts.  Many decorate their homes with peach blossoms if they are from the north or apricot blossoms if they are from the south.  Pots of cone-shaped two to three feet tall kumquat trees are carefully selected and displayed prominently in the house.   These trees symbolize the many generations in a family such that the fruits represent the grandparents, the flowers are the parents, the buds are the children, and the light green leaves are the grandchildren.  To pay homage to ancestors and to demonstrate gratitude, a tray with five different candied-fruits is placed on the ancestral altar in the house.

For good luck, the Vietnamese customarily eat  a square cake made of glutinous rice, mung beans, and pork (banh chung) and a concoction of pickled radishes, peppers, and other vegetables called dua mon. They also visit friends and relatives during the official three-day festivity as they wine and dine to catch up with each another.  Similar to the Chinese custom, small children in Vietnam also receive lucky money in a red envelop from their elders.  Although the Vietnamese Government banned firecrackers several years ago, the revelry of Lunar New Year celebration remains, typically for seven days.

Coming from a culture where ancestors and elders play an integral part in traditions, many Asians in the U.S. continue to pay respect to their ancestors and elders on New Year’s  Day.  As for the community, the China Towns in large cosmopolitan areas such as San Francisco or New York City historically offer various types of celebrations highlighted by parades, lion dances, or even a 112-foot long dragon dancing to the beats of drums and gongs.  Smaller Asian communities throughout the country may organize entertainments that include the demonstration of one or more of the five Chinese traditional arts—music, chess, caligraphy, painting, and martial arts.  If you are interested to get a taste of the lunar new year festivity, be sure to check your local Chinese cultural center.  It is something that you will not want to miss!

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