Southern locals welcome a peaceful and traditional Tet

Saturday, 2018-02-17 14:48:38
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NDO – The southern region, at over 300 years of age, is still a relatively young land, but is home to an imposing cultural treasure with precious indigenous values, including its celebrations for the Lunar New Year (Tet).

The traditional manner in which southerners welcome Tet differs in some ways compared to other regions of the S-shaped country.

Since ancient times, the Vietnamese people and locals in the South in particular have considered Tet as a chance to reunite the family. Every relative, whether living and working nearby or far away from home tries to return for New Year’s Eve to celebrate with their relatives. From mid-December of the lunar year, the Tet atmosphere has begun to grow throughout the country and within the hearts of the people.

During early spring, the weather grows warmer, signaling the marigold and daisy flowers that it is time to grow and welcome Tet. Watermelon and flower markets are the most fun and hectic areas for trade. Everyone wants to buy a pair of melons to bring to the altar for Tet rituals. These days, everyone seems to be happier, perhaps because the bustling Tet atmosphere consoles their daily tiredness.

At present, local markets are fully supplied with abundant goods, but local people prefer a warm and cozy Tet, so they often make their own treats to use during Tet, like sponge cakes, candied coconut ribbons, and candied ginger. The handmade treats are also boxed to present to neighbours as gifts from the countryside.

On the 23rd of the last month of the lunar year, the Vietnamese bid farewell to "Ong Cong - Ong Tao" (Land Genie and Kitchen Gods), who will make their trip to the Heaven as they bring a report to the Jade Emperor about the good and bad things of every family over the last year. Locals prepare a meal to offer to the gods before their departure and another meal to welcome them back a week later on the 30th day of December in the lunar year. The day is also the chance for locals to welcome their ancestors’ souls back home to join their relatives for Tet.

On the last day of the lunar year, many people join to slaughter a pig and split the meat to make a traditional dish of well stewed pork and also banh tet (rolled glutinous rice cakes) for Tet. The stewed pork dish and banh tet are laid on the altar in a tray as the last meal of the last day of the lunar year, showing gratitude to the departed.

It wouldn’t be a proper Tet in the South without a fruit tray on the altar. As a definite taboo, the traditional fruit tray for the Tet of southerners can never have a banana, because the name of the fruit has the same sound as "chúi" which is a bad omen. Oranges are not present in the tray of fruits on Tet, because the South understands that as "cam chịu", meaning “to suffer” that they do not want to do. Fruit trays usually include custard, coconut, papaya, and fig, which represent the fullness and prosperity of the whole year as people have always dreamed of since their ancestors reclaimed the wet lands in the South to make today’s southern region.

Midnight of New Year’s Eve is the most anticipated moment. In the past, they burned firecrackers, but today there are fireworks. Children’s eyes are glued to the TV screen as they wait to hear the crashing sound of explosive fireworks before falling asleep in their parents’ arms. Adults look forward to New Year's Eve by carrying out rituals of praying for a peaceful and prosperous new year with luck. Locals in the South always care for others first before themselves, so in the beginning praying sentences, they first pray for all relatives, families’ members and their neighbours, then themselves last.

After the vows, they go to the garden picking a branch of apricot as a symbol of good luck in the early minutes of the New Year.

Temples are the place where people flock immediately after New Year's Eve. Going to the pagoda is an age old tradition dating back to the period when the first inhabitants first set foot on this land, and it shows the firmly held belief in the gods and the predecessors who had established the land.

On the morning of the first day in the lunar New Year, they visit their relatives and neighbours to offer incense on the altar, then wish each other good luck. Children are always eager to wait for a small red envelope of lucky money gifted by adults. They also offer small dishes to treat their guests. Inviting someone to drink a glass of wine and eat a piece of pickled onion is enough for a Tet wish.

If anyone has welcomed Tet in the South, they can feel that the Tet atmosphere here is not too noisy or as hectic as in many other regions, but very warm and sincere. These days, local villages are always busy with the sounds of children and adults joining in lion dances to bring the vitality of spring time to every home.