I know it’s the middle of February, however, today is the 1st of the Lunar New Year. 2013 is the year of the snake according to the Lunar Calendar which is celebrated by many Asian countries.
Vietnamese culture is heavily influenced by Chinese culture because the China dominated Vietnam from 111 BC to 938 CE (there are some brief years of independence)
“The Chinese calendar is based on a combination of lunar and solar movements. The lunar cycle is about 29.5 days. In order to “catch up” with the solar calendar the Chinese insert an extra month once every few years (seven years out of a 19-yearcycle). This is the same as adding an extra day on leap year. This is why, according to the solar calendar, the Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year.
New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are celebrated as a family affair, a time of reunion and thanksgiving. The celebration was traditionally highlighted with a religious ceremony given in honor of Heaven and Earth, the gods of the household and the family ancestors.”
Growing up in Vietnam, there is only one holiday per year and that is the New Year Holiday. It is a combination of Thanksgiving, New Years and Christmas for us. It’s a big deal because this is the holiday that I’m given my new clothes that are expected to last for the rest of year. Money was also a popular gift from adult friends of the family to children. Lunar New Year is the most exciting and festive time of year. Everyone is in good spirits, especially my parents!
On the the eve of the New Year, the family participates in the tea ceremony and waits for midnight to start the firecrackers. After the noise and smoke clear, the children traditionally wish their parents and elderly a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.
“Con chuc ba ma nam moi vui ve, manh khoe, lam an phat dac” translation: “I wish you (the parents) a happy, healthy and prosperous new year”
It is expected for the children to get their New Years greeting right. The better the greeting the more red envelopes or bigger red envelope one receives. These red envelopes were such great motivators for me to get my greeting right because inside those red envelopes was money. I had a very hungry piggy bank to feed so I always practiced my greeting. I think that was the beginning of my sibling rivalry in my family.
For the next 3 days of festivities, the whole country goes on and celebrates the tradition that has been celebrated for more than a thousand years. Some of the practices are:
– Caramelized Fruit Candy (muc) – Lots of westerners would describe it as very sweet but for me it was a once a year special treat and was something my mother would spend an entire evening making and preparing for the holiday. I used to fall asleep right next to a char grill watching the fruit slowly caramelize and harden often taking up to 10 hours to complete.
– Gift exchange
– New clothes
– Family Portrait.
Plum Blossoms symbolizes luckiness
Kumquat symbolizes prosperity
Narcissus symbolizes prosperity
Bamboo plant used for any time of year
Sunflower means to have a good year
Eggplant to heal all of your sicknesses
Chom Mon Planta which gives you tranquility
– Firecrackers (phao)
– Lion dance (mua lang) – I always love this and still enjoy watching this to this day.
I am so fortunate to have two culture that I can call home.