Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Chúc Mừng Năm Mới !

I've been almost embarrassed to mention that I am now on vacation. Almost everything is closed now, and the entire country has been celebrating Tet, the lunar new year. It's strange, but many Vietnamese follow the lunar dates. It's not uncommon for someone to say 'the 23rd' and mean the 23rd day of the lunar calendar which is really, let's say, the 30th of a given month. Awfully confusing for the foreigner. I wonder if it affects the time of day too, because the Vietnamese tend to be consistently late!

There are many traditions and superstitions regarding Tet. People spend the week before Tet shopping and preparing traditional foods and an equally long time figuring out who should be the first person to enter their house in the new year. It's believed that the first person can influence the fortunes of the family, and so someone is chosen based on their age, their year, and some other characteristics ( like honesty, purity, blah blah all those things that only exist in fairy tales and legends). To follow the tradition I have cleaned my office and bedroom, paid my credit card and been subjected to hearing my neighbours slaughter the rooster that has been waking me up every morning.

Last night I joined some Vietnamese friends for the festivities. We met up at someone's house that had been decked in Tet decorations. Cumquat trees, branches with little flower blossoms, and fruit was dutifully stacked on the alters commemorating loved ones long gone.

After eating cucumbers and sticky rice and watching pork, chicken and meaty spring rolls be enviously eaten before my eyes (dumb for me not to remind them of my vegetarianism, but I had really already eaten) we headed out to watch the fireworks and street festivities.

In Vietnamese style, we basically left 5 minutes before midnight rushing through the streets. As we walked the anticipation was amazing, motorbikes and people rushing in one direction, as if we were going to watch the end of the world.

As soon as it hit midnight and the fireworks started, the crowd erupted. I made a wish and sent up a lantern into the sky. Not so successful, as it got caught in the power lines. It got freed by some people in the crowd who were throwing things at it to get it free, but then got caught in a street decoration. It finally became free again, and it seemed like the crowd was just as happy as I was, as my wish is likely to come true and they were safe from a potentially disastrous electrical fire.

Happy New Year, or Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!


Jeannette said...

"enviously eaten"? really?

Is it cold there, looks cold!

Rebel said...

That's why the Thai release their khom fai (lanterns) at the beach... up up and away away away. ;) I think that means you'll have a few obstacles... but people will throw stuff at you & you'll overcome them. Then it's up up and away for you too!! =)

Jonathan said...

Jeannette - Enviously, in the way that i wish i had something to eat that was equally as tasty to a vegetarian... And it has gotten cold... but not as cold as Japan when i was visiting. I hear it only lasts a couple weeks!

Thanks Rebel for that awesome divination of yours ;)

Sarah said...

comment 1: your lantern looks like a condom. which, of course bring luck and safty to the new year. haha

comment 2: i can't believe your lantern got stuck in the wires. oh, and i might be wrong about the occation, but thai's do release them in the city too.