The Year of the Ox is just around the corner!
By Udeshi Seneviratne, Staff Illustrator
New Year’s is my excuse to indulge in special delicacies and sneakily convince my mom to make the most time-consuming dishes.
February 12 marks the Year of the Ox and a new beginning for 2021. Ever since migrating from Vietnam for school, I have sadly missed a lot of Lunar New Year (Tết) celebrations. Despite that, I always feel the excitement and the preparation spirit in the air as we approach the occasion.
As a reminder to myself, I wanted to list a few traditions that make me love Tết that could also provide you with a mini glimpse into how we celebrate the New Year’s in Vietnam!
The food is primarily why (if I am completely honest)
New Year’s is my excuse to indulge in special delicacies and sneakily convince my mom to make the most time-consuming dishes. A dish that takes over six hours to make and only gets better the more hours you let it marinate is the egg and pork stew. This dish is usually eaten year-round but tends to be made for the Lunar New Year or events that require offerings to your ancestors. Special cakes are also made during Tết, called Bánh Trưng and Bánh Tét. These are traditional rice cakes that can take days to finish and are beautifully wrapped in banana leaves with various fillings that complete the flavourful dishes.
Little bursts of flavour, dried sweets
As someone with a sweet tooth, I adore the candied fruits this occasion brings. Traditionally, each house you visit during New Year’s will have an intricately decorated platter of candied or dried fruits. Basically, any fruit you can think of can be dried and added to this platter. How marvelous is that? The best ones in my opinion are dried coconut and candied soursop. The tiny treats displayed at the houses you visit also reflect the homeowner’s character and what they enjoy. So, it makes hosts happy if you also enjoy them!
Gorgeous flower displays
Flowers are a HUGE deal for New Year’s. Yearly, there is a whole walking strip located in the city centre dedicated to putting flowers in meticulously vibrant sculptures for our viewing. I still have embarrassing pictures of my younger self taken on this road, as the whole city pours to the strip for their annual family photo shoot. Flowers are also important to have in homes. I miss going with my parents to the flower markets a few days before the New Year to bring home these yellow little bloomers called Ochna Integerrima (Hoa mai) home. It is believed to be auspicious and lucky to have your tree bloom yellow on New Year’s Day.
Time with the family
Lunar New Year is considered the time for family and rest. This is the time to visit your loved ones or friends you have not seen in years. New Year’s is the best occasion to get reconnected with those you miss! During our holidays, we would get together with all of our cousins to play card games, board games, or walk around the neighbourhood and receive lucky money, which is my next point on why I love Tết.
Lucky money (or lì xì) is given to kids by adults you visit and “wish.” Generally, you will have a script ready for what you will be “wishing” people for in the new year, and once you recite your script in the cutest manner, you get a red envelope of MONEY! While it made every child giddy to receive money on the day, today most Vietnamese in their twenties do not know where their accumulated funds have gone. Ask anyone and they will tell you the same, I promise.
Due to the pandemic, our Tết will be a little different this year. However, I look forward to celebrating this glorious holiday with my family again!