CELEBRATING MY HERITAGE – TET – VIETNAMESE LUNAR NEW YEAR
Most people in the UK think of lunar New Year as something the Chinese celebrate. But Lunar New Year is celebrated in Vietnam too! The Vietnamese Lunar New Year, called Tet, is just exactly like Christmas in the UK. We prepare a big feast, watch fireworks, share gifts and celebrations with friends and family and take a few days off work too.
So to mark the Year of the Ox, Loc’s Taste of Vietnam is bringing a little Vietnamese Tet to our members. Our cookery school will be host to some delicious traditional Vietnamese Tet recipes, and a whole host of other wonderful Tet inspired things to see and do.
First though, if you’re new to the whole Tet thing, I’ve done a little video about some of the traditional things we eat during this wonderful Lunar New Year – including my family’s favourite Braised Pork with Egg.
Tet is of course, our most important holiday of the year in Vietnam. To give Tet its full name, Tết Nguyên Đán, it translates as Feast of the First Morning of the First Day and marks the first day of spring. During Tet, all houses, gardens, offices and pretty much everywhere, are decorated with an abundance of flowers – especially yellow, red or orange flowers believed to signify good luck. Yellow Ochna flowers are basically our version of the Christmas tree and you will find them sold everywhere before Tet so that we can decorate our houses and gardens with them. Preparations for Tet also include cleaning! We like to give the house a big Spring clean in the run up to Tet – we like to think of the New year as a clean slate and giving the house a good wash and brush up is all part and parcel of those traditions.
One of the many traditions loved by children in Vietnam during the Tet holiday, is the one where they are given money in little red envelopes for good luck by their elders. The Li Xi tradition has its roots in folklore. An ogre named Tuy who lived in a giant peach tree would try to hurt children on New Year’s Eve but some deities protected the children by turning themselves into gold coins which were placed under a red cloth under a child’s pillow to ward off the ogre. Now we favour folding money in red envelopes but the tradition is the same.
After we’ve eaten lots of lovely food, and played some games with our families, it is traditional in Vietnam to go out to watch the firework displays. Some suggest that this originates from keeping bad spirits at bay by using loud noises, but either way, who can resist a great big firework display?
No doubt many of you will have seen a Chinese Lion or Dragon dance and the Vietnamese Lion dance is very similar. The lion or ‘unicorn’ dance is performed on special occasions including our Tet and usually accompanied by drums – again all that warding off of evil spirits using loud noises! They say that whenever the lion appears, the audience will have peace, happiness and prosperity and children are always enthralled by it.
So there you go, a little bit of Tet history and tradition for you. If you’d like to join in the Tet fun, why not join the membership so you get access to all our Tet recipes and videos?
Wishing you all a very Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!