"Joy springs from a grateful heart . . . [and from] rememberance of the amazement which our encunter with Jesus Christ awakens in our hearts." POPE FRANCIS
TET is a three-day holiday to celebrate the Vietnamese New Year and the beginning of spring, which usually falls in late January or early February and depends upon the dates on the lunar calendar for that year. It is a holiday celebrated by feasting, wearing new things, and exchanging gifts among family members and friends. This holiday is Vietnam’s largest celebration of the year and could be compared to America’s Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Fourth of July all combined together into one giant celebration. It is a family reunion, a spring festival, a national holiday, and everybody’s birthday! The celebration of Tet is still celebrated by the Vietnamese community in America, for it is a time to pay respect to our ancestors, visit family and friends, and celebrate the start of a new year. However, the Vietnamese people in America usually condense the three-day celebration into one day because of economical reasons. Since Tet is not considered a holiday in America, the Vietnamese community usually celebrate it on a weekend with family and friends.
In Vietnam, the first few days before the celebration of Tet are very busy ones; everyone cleans houses, prepares food, travels to be with loved ones, and gathers fresh flowers like branches from the peach tree (Hoa Dao). When it is the first morning of Tet, the children get up early and receive red envelopes of money from their parents. They in turn wish their parents and grandparents the best of luck for the New Year (Chuc Mung Nam Moi). The second day of Tet is reserved to visit friends and relatives, feast on their favorite food like rice cakes, and enjoy dragon or lion dances on the streets. The third day of the celebration is reserved for the dead or to pay respect to our ancestors, who are remembered in front of the family altar in their houses or pay visits to church.
Tet is celebrated on different dates each year depending on the Lunar Calendar in which the months are determined by the phases of the moon. The years in the Lunar Calendar are named after the 12 animals. The animal symbols of the Vietnamese calendar are as following: mouse, buffalo, tiger, cat, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, chicken, dog, and pig. The year 2018 marks the year of the dog (Mau Tuat). People who are born during this year are considered friendly, courageous, and faithful in character.
Tet customs include giving out red envelopes of lucky money, having a flowering branch of the peach tree in their house, prohibiting of sweeping, and picking a leafy branch covered with fruit and flowers (Canh Loc). At midnight on New Year’s Eve (Giao Thua), each family offers thanks for the good things received during the past year and prepares to welcome the New Year. Tet is also a time to correct faults, forget past mistakes, pardon others for their offenses, and pay debts. To owe money during Tet is considered bad luck. So, Tet is a time to come to terms with the past, enjoy the present, and look forward to the future.
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