It’s kinda awesome that we get to celebrate New Year’s twice within a 1-2 month time frame every year. Western culture New Year’s celebrations are fun, but I always look forward to Lunar New Year celebrations. I’ve inherited a bit of my mom’s superstitions so it takes me about 2 weeks to prepare for Tết. I clean the house so that it will be spotless; gotta have the house perfect to start fresh for the New Year. It’s also because on the day of Tết, no cleaning is allowed. No trash can be taken out, no sweeping, no vacuuming, no anything that involves cleaning (unless it’s a must). Superstition says that if you clean, you will clean out all of your fortune that year. You’re also supposed to decorate the house with lots of red, hoa mai (yellow blossoms tree) and/or hoa đào (peach blossoms tree), and platters of fruit.
[singlepic id=45 w=320 h=240 float=] [singlepic id=49 w=320 h=240 float=]On and around Tết, we are supposed to go to the homes of our elders and wish them with the usual Tết greetings. Okay… I am very Americanized (or just a bad Asian daughter) and never learned to say the proper Tết greeting. It goes something like, “I wish you a prosperous New Year, with lots of luck, security, good health, a long life of a 100 years, and something something something…” (The husband has to mouth words to me each year whenever I call home to wish the parents a happy New Year). The elders would then give us a lucky red envelope, a lì xì, with money. It was always exciting to receive a lì xì with a $2 bill.
[singlepic id=46 w=320 h=240 float=]One of my favorite Tết memories is playing bầu cua cá cọp, which translates into gourd, crab, fish, tiger (incidentally, there is no tiger on the playing mat). The concept is like craps. There is a mat with a picture of a prawn, a crab, a fish, a rooster, a gourd, and a stag. You’d place a bet using quarters on one or several of the pictures. My uncles would up the ante sometimes and throw in a five dollar bill, just to get the kids more worked up. Then “the dealer” would shake up 3 dies using a bowl and a plate. The loud noise is supposed to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits.
[singlepic id=47 w=320 h=240 float=]On January 1st, I’ll have my champagne, but I’m just really waiting for Tết to eat bánh chưng (traditional rice cake filled with meaty goodness) and engage in all of the festivities. Chúc mừng năm mới everyone!
[singlepic id=48 w=320 h=240 float=] Linda Tran. Foodie and EatinAsian Blogger