Everyone knows about Chinese New Year. The festivals. The paper lanterns. The huge family gatherings and the traditional food.
But what many people don’t know is that the Vietnamese celebrate it too!
Vietnamese New Year (aka Tết) is like the Chinese New Year in many ways: it is based on the lunisolar calendar, is the biggest holiday of the year, and is deeply engrained in tradition and custom. Vietnam during Tết will be rampant with lights, performances, and general revelry. Not that I’ve ever seen it– I have yet to visit Asia, much less Vietnam, and even less Vietnam during Tết.
Instead, my family has always celebrated Tết here in America. Granted, I think our parties are a bit toned down compared to Vietnam. We don’t even get an extra day off, like the way many other religious or cultural holidays are honored. But, we persevere.
One such tradition? Our parents like to doll all the girls up in áo dài, the Vietnamese traditional dress. It’s this sort of long silk tunic worn over loose pants. Except we get our áo dài, naturally, from Vietnam. Not America. Where people eat rice and fish and vegetables and stay active. Where girls face enormous pressure to stay as thin as possible. So, as a girl raised in the land of junk food, I find áo dài a little troublesome.
My mom will present to us a wide array of cute áo dài, only for me to discover that only one fits. Usually it’s the dorkiest, most ridiculous, or most obnoxious one. This year I donned a shade of blaring pink:
But dressing up is a good time anyway! Other fun traditions? Kids get “lì xì,” the lucky money handed out in red envelopes. Regretfully, the older you get, the less money you’re likely to receive. But my younger cousin still gets a kick out of it:
On occasion, my family will set up a little altar of our deceased relatives and present an offering of different fruits. My cousins and I were made to pray to our ancestors, asking them to help us in the year to come.
Recreational gambling is also a plus. Every Tết my dad will pull out bầu cua ca cop, a traditional gambling game involving three die picturing a fish, a shrimp, a crab, a rooster, a gourd, and a deer. It’s all chump change, of course– just kids and parents betting their quarters for a little fun.
But best of all? The food! During Tết, traditionally, families will make the extra effort to cook more labor-intensive dishes. What do I mean? For example, bánh chưng, a type of cake, requires simmering for, oh, 6 hours. Not to mention the hours spent soaking the rice and mung beans that go into the dish. And after my grandmother put all that work into making it, our family ate it in about two seconds. Delicious food doesn’t stay around long in my house.
Even more interesting dishes that graced our table this year, though, include these: pork intestine and pork ears. I do not kid.
And that’s just a slice of my culture! I hope one day I can go to Vietnam during Tết. And get a more fashionable áo dài.
ahahahahaha i’m happy to be korean, where our traditional clothes are super huge and can accomodate the extra fat that “normal” skinny koreans don’t have.
Ohhhhh now those look cozy! My arms are apparently too muscular for áo dài– I can barely lift up my shoulders when I’m wearing them, they’re so tight! But those Korean dresses look fun 😀
that’s crazy. i feel like all asian traditional clothes are super tight and sexy other than korean ones. we’re like the ones chillin’ on the floor with this dress that’s at massive and poofy as a ballgown.
I want one!! They look so comfy… and like they could actually fit… JEALOUSY!
what do ya mean dorky? i think u look cute in ur outfit, I would love to get one of my own!
Awww thanks! Hahaha I wish I could give you a good place to buy them, but they’re actually pretty pricy when you import them. Hence why my family only has really old ones! 😀
Could you go to Vietnam? By that, I mean, aren’t they a communist state and not very inviting to Americans?
I could go to Vietnam. While Vietnam is still communist, tourism is actually such a huge part of the economy that they promote visitation! The only problem is, tickets are maaaaad expensive. (Like, over $2,000 per person.)
Wow!! I did not know that. But I understand. If the government wants money, then they will do many things to get it. Kind of like our government… Just in a much nicer way.
Almost forgot. It’s Question Corner!!
We’re in holiday season. Election season that is. So how about some political questions. Just kidding (politics are evil, whether the people working in them realize it or not). But the season of deception and lies does bring to mind some questions. Like, what is the most competitive ‘thing’ you’ve ever been involved in: sports, races, contests, fights, academics, comic-writing, ect. Mine would be Track and Field in High School.
I was actually on the varsity tennis team in high school! That was competitive, for sure… girls get crazzzzy when they play. On the tennis court, it’s personal!
Not to say guys aren’t competitive too. I actually dislocated my shoulder right before girls’ tennis season, so I played on the boys’ team instead that spring. The guys were super competitive too, but in a a different way.
How were the boy’s competitiveness different than the girls? I can’t think of any different ways
Hmmm… the girls were more subtle about it. From my experience, girls can get personal. I’ve had teams go out of their way to get their opponents mad (by patronizing them, smashing balls at them, laughing at them, calling their shots out when they’re in, etc.) They didn’t just want to win– they wanted to beat YOU. They wanted to make you cry. It’s not always like this, though– I’ve also had many civilized matches!
Guys, on the other hand, were pretty direct. They got mad, they got frustrated, but they never really seemed to hold anything against you. Then again, I was on JV instead of varsity on the boy’s team, so maybe it was different!
Girls are weird.