Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Happy New Year

One of the few Vietnamese words American's of a certain age know, beyond a few rudimentary menu words is TET, the Vietnamese word meaning Feast of the First Morning, or New Year.  Today is Tet, Vietnamese New Year, the first day of spring in countries which use the the Chinese lunar calendar.  Hence, it Chinese New Year as well.

A wandering Scot who turned up in Saigon would recognize most Vietnamese new year celebrations.   New Year's day is first celebrated within the family.  The oldest family members honor the youngest with small packets of money to bestow good luck on the family.  The children in return offer a special greeting wishing good health and long life to their benefactors.  As in Scotland, it is widely believed that the first guest to your home in the new year will determine the fortune of the house (first footing). Generally, guests of good character will be invited to arrive first.  Dad will often wait outside his house before midnight to intercept bad man Jose should he try to enter first.

As in all cultures there a numerous proscribed gifts, foods and taboos for Tet. Most are based upon the traditional Buddhist beliefs.  Do give clothes, new rice or rice wine, chickens and something red.  Don't sweep (expels good fortune), do not visit if you have recently lost a loved one, don't give gifts of medicine and no duck.

Happy New Year
American's of a certain age most likely remember the TET Offensive as a surprise attack and escalation of the Vietnam war by the North Vietnamese forces which began on this date 1968.  

1 comment:

Old Polo said...

Toad, TET does not bring back fond memories. In reality, we had been "winning" the war. TET seemed to convince our commanders that we had no future. I often wonder why it took so long to figger that out. I was a lowly Captain in the US Army at the time, so what did I know? What a terrible waste of resources.