Published on January 23rd, 20123
Happy (Lunar) New Year (Tết) from Vietnam!
Based on the Lunar calendar, today is the first day of 2012 – the Year of the Dragon. Short for “Tết Nguyên Đán”, Tết is a HUGE holiday here in Vietnam.
Indeed, rather like Christmas-combined-with-Easter-combined-with-4th-of-July… on STEROIDS! There’s weeks of preparations, cooking, cleaning, buying new clothes, flowers, special foods, candy, little red “lucky money” envelopes given to children, etc.
The streets are lined with vendors selling “Easter” baskets of candy and treats, and displays of special fruits (like watermelon, grapefruit, mango, etc.) that each have a propitious meaning. Special foods are cooked and offered to the kitchen spirits, and home alters are adorned with food, fruit, flowers and incense for ancestors and the Buddha. Then as the new year draws near, flower festivals spring up in all the parks, lanterns and lights twinkle in every tree, and fireworks fill the sky at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
But that’s not the end of it – it goes on for a week or more, as most every blessed Vietnamese heads back home to their childhood village for reunions with their parents and relatives. It’s a mass EXODUS, leaving HCMC verily deserted. The usual cacophony of gazllions of motorbikes zoom, zoom, zooming like locust in the streets – today it’s so quiet you can hear BIRDS CHIRPING! Indeed, this may well be the only day when one can SAFELY CROSS THE STREET in Saigon!
I don’t presume to understand but a smidge of it – the religious significance, the many nuanced family customs. But I can tell you this: Tết in Vietnam, makes New Year’s Eve in the States look like a vapid play-date with your Uncle Leroy (you know, the one who drools while slurping his Campbell’s tomato soup.)
That, and I can at least drop a few pics of some of the highlights, plus point you to a full gallery of images of the flower festival at my eye-candy site: Through the Eyes of TravelnLass.