Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Tet in Vietnam
By far the biggest holiday in Vietnam occurs during the Lunar New Year and is called Tet. We've kind of gleaned information from here and there about the holiday, but in reality we had no idea what was going on or why. Some places/people describe it as "New Year's, Christmas, and your birthday all rolled into one huge party" and that does seem true. There is gift giving, lots of partying, visiting family and friends, and a huge celebration and lots of customs regarding the new year. The holiday is so big that it has 4 days of holidays on the calendar, and even Gameloft closed for almost a week (actually, since the days took up Monday through Thursday, so few people would come in on Friday that they did close for an entire week). Even the majority of restaurants and grocery stores close, a fact we had been warned about back in July when we first arrived. So, we planned to do what was recommended and leave the country. Unfortunately that led to even less of an understanding of the holiday, so I recommend looking it up online if you want the full picture.
The first things we noticed about the coming holiday were the lights and decorations going up EVERYWHERE. The city put up a lot of light displays, flower displays, and spent a month building a huge sidewalk display along the river.
Most Vietnamese travel to their hometown or where their family reside for the holiday, where they spend at least one full day with family and have designated days where they visit friends and teachers. So, a lot of things close and have irregular schedules. It took 2 weeks to get most places open, and about a month to get back to life as usual.
Before we both left town for Tet, we had breakfast with our Vietnamese friend Thui, who is totally sweet, and gave her a "Tet basket" for her family for the holidays. We aren't sure really how it works, but it seems like they assemble gift baskets to give people during the holidays; they are filled with cookies, treats, and usually some type of sparkling juice (which tasted funny to us), wine, or liquor. They vary in price from 150K VND (about $7) to about 3 million VND ($150 USD) depending on the contents. Thui bought us breakfast and gave us the awesome yellow flowers pictured below, saying it is traditional and lucky to have yellow flowers in your house for Tet.
The huge display along the river wasn't done until we got back from our Tet trip to Thailand, but luckily we saw it the last night they had it up and it was really amazing. There were huge statues and art displays for probably close to half a mile, it was awesome. Here are some of the highlights as not all of the photos turned out - we were planning on getting a video the next day but alas, it was mostly gone by then, enjoy!