Chinese New Year

We have celebrated Chinese New Year with our dear friends and enjoyed dishes with lucky meanings for many years. The year before the pandemic we were lucky to be in Asia for Chinese New Year. 
Asian countries all celebrate the Lunar New Year with each country calling the celebration by their own cultural names. For most countries, Lunar New Year begins with the first new moon in the lunar calendar and ends with a special celebration 15 days later with the first full moon.

This is the most important and significant celebration of the year for the past several thousand years in Asian cultures. It is a time to celebrate with family and ancestors as they enter a new year. 
We were in Vietnam for their Lunar New Year celebration called Tết Nguyên Đán, or just Tết. What fun we had. The Vietnamese people are very friendly all year round and are happy and full of 
energy during Tết and it made for such a pleasant environment for that month. 

Preparation for Tết begins weeks before. Homes are repaired, scrubbed and painted as you want to start the new year fresh to sweep away the old and make way for the new beginning. Homes are decorated with flowers and decorations. New clothes are made or purchased, traditional dishes are created for family. Businesses shut down for up to four weeks so that millions of people can travel to their home villages and towns to be with family. 

Families reunite to honour their ancestors and pray for luck, health and prosperity for the coming year. This is done in a variety of ways. One way is through the burning of joss paper. The burnt offerings are replicas or drawings of money, cars, houses, clothes, and whatever you want your ancestors to have in the afterlife to be comfortable. 

The joss paper is sold in packets costing a few dollars to hundreds of dollars. The more offerings that you give the better your ancestors will be in the afterlife, and as the ancestors participate in the going ons of the living, the generosity of the gifts is returned in prosperity, good luck and good health through the next year. 

Prior to Tết there is the Welcoming Ancestor Ceremony to invite the ancestors to join Tết from the afterlife. There are trays of food for the ancestors, for the relatives’ souls, the Kitchen God, the Earth God, God of Wealth, and lonely souls. The host burns incense and at each tray invites ancestors and Gods to join the family in ushering in the new year.

Tết is about food. The Vietnam culture revolves around food and it is even more important during Tết. All the many special dishes are made with each region of Vietnam having their own traditional dishes. A popular dish is Banh Chung that is sticky rice with a meat or bean filling wrapped in a banana leaf. 

The large cities go all out with floral displays throughout the city and fireworks during New Year Eve. In smaller towns and villages, the atmosphere is relaxed and laid back. Streets are filled with people.

During our travels, people were so friendly. Whole families would come up and want to touch me and rub my belly and have their picture taken with me. I reminded them of Happy Buddha. Children would run up and hold our hands as we strolled down the riverwalk with their parents walking beside us. It was a very natural and friendly child gesture. We felt so welcomed and comfortable that we can’t wait to go back to Vietnam.