There are significant holidays to every country. Holiday is define as a day free from work that one may spend time to relax, especially a day on which custom or the law dictates a stopping of general business activity to honor or celebrate a particular event. In religious term, it is a holy day. For example, American people celebrate holidays such as, Thanksgiving and Christmas, Hispanics celebrate Cinco de Mayo, and for Vietnamese people, we celebrate a very important holiday which is the Vietnamese New Year.
In my speech today, I will inform all of you how the Vietnamese New Year came into being, the tradition rituals, and how we celebrate the New Year.
Vietnam is a country in the Eastern Hemisphere that was influenced by China for over decades. Therefore, the Chinese New Year and the Vietnamese New Year, which we call Tet, have many similarities. It was told that thousand of years ago in a small village of China, there was a monster who came one winter’s eve and destroyed the village. The following year, the monster returned and again destroyed the village. Before it could happened a third time, the villagers worked out a plan to scare the monster away. Throughout the whole village, red banners were hung; the color red had long been believed to protect against evil. Firecrackers, drums and gongs were used to celebrate loud noises to scare the monster away. The plan worked and the celebration lasted several days during which people visited with each other, exchanged gifts, danced, and ate tasty food. That was how the New Year got started.
The New Year begins on the first night of the first moon. This is sometime between January 21 and February 19 on the solar calendar. The day of the New Year varied depends on the phases of the moon. Traditionally, Tet takes weeks of preparation. All homes are clean to get rid of bad fortune associated with the old year. Every member in the family participates in the preparation and cleaning process. The house must be thoroughly cleansed from inside and outside. It is considered bad luck to start the New Year cleaning because it was believed that you will sweep all the good fortunes away. Families paint their homes to give new looks. Anyone who has debts needs to pay them off before the New Year to mark a new beginning. And most importantly, everyone needs to visit the graves of the ancestors and burn incense to call upon the souls of the dead visit the family home. Anyone who does not do this is regarded as the ill-fated child and would be punished by the ancestors.
During the New Year week, the markets are swarmed with people. The traditional food must be purchased are the sugared fruits, earth cake and the colorful decorations of Tet. Two flowering plants that represent for Tet are the bright golden yellow branches of apricot and the soft rose colored of peach flowers. These flowering plants represent spring and the blossoms represent good fortunes about to happen.
After the long preparation, a very important ritual takes place at the mid-night hour on New Year’s Eve. The ritual is to invite the souls of the ancestors to come spending Tet with the family. Everyone, from the youngest to the oldest takes turn to bow down before the altar. After the ceremony, adults and children lights up firecrackers and bang the gongs to make loud noises to usher out the old and welcome the New Year and also to scare away the evil spirits.
Vietnamese people are very superstitious about what they do on New Year’s Day. The events on New Year’s Day determine your luck for the rest of the year. Therefore, everything and everyone you are in touch with on New Year’s Day should symbolize good fortune. It is the unspoken forbiddance to not visit people who are in mourning because they are associated with death. The people who are mourning do no take this as an offensive deed but actually understand that they shouldn’t have any visitors. Children should not fight or cry on New Year’s Day.
There are three days to celebrate the New Year. On the first day of New Year, the family displays the offerings of food on alter as the first meal for the ancestors since they have returned home. This is the day where the families are united and gets to spend a lot of times together. On Tet days, parents and adults would give children red envelop with money tuck inside, which represent a symbol of good luck. Families visit temple or churches to pray. Since most Vietnamese do not celebrate birthdays, Tet is consider everyone birthday. It is considered New Year therefore it marks a new age for everyone. On the second day of New Year, families visit relatives and closed friends. On this day, the streets are swarm with people and the atmosphere is very cheerful. There would be performances of lion dances and dragon dances, while people shoot firecrackers and gamble in the streets.
On the third day of Tet, the circle of connections becomes larger and is extended to the broader community outside the family by visits to teachers, bosses or a helpful physician to show respect. The third day marks the ending of the celebration.
For most Vietnamese, Tet is a time for family gatherings, a time to pay respects to their ancestors, a time to relax from all the hard work from the previous year, and a time to forget the pass and live for the present and the future.