Tết – Lunar New Year Celebration
The Lunar New Year Celebration, known as Tết Nguyên Đán in Vietnamese, is the most important celebration of Vietnamese culture. Translated to mean “the first morning of the first day,” Tet (in short) is the Vietnamese version of the Lunar New Year and can be considered an all in one festival. It is a perfect way to celebrate the union of nature, human, culture, the living and the dead. In the Vietnamese culture there is strong recognition of the fact that we, each of us, stands on the shoulders of those who came before. We would not be here if we had not been cared for and supported by others along the way. So the Lunar New Year Celebration is a time to honor and remember family members and ancestors. Through the beliefs in the symbolic representation of plants as future happiness and fortune; through the gifts and respect plants represent to ancestors and gods; and through the foods meticulously prepared that brings families together to connect, celebrate and share around a delicious meal – the rituals and celebrations of Tet is holistic, and always mindful of the connection between humans and their natural and spiritual world. Considered a celebration of Spring and the rebirth it brings, the days are marked with chrysanthemums, music, and pageantry, including traditional Vietnamese dress, and special dishes.
A special dish that is traditionally prepared at this time is Bánh Chưng and Bánh Tét. These are glutinous rice cakes wrapped in bamboo leaves and bound with flexible bamboo fibers. Between the rice are mung beam paste pressed between layers of glutinous rice. The shape symbolizes thankfulness of the Vietnamese people for the great abundance of food on Earth and through the seasons.
The first day of Tet is probably the most exciting time of the holiday for both adults and children. It signifies a new beginning, cleansing of past misfortunes and hopes for a brighter future. Often time gifts are given. At Quan Am Nam Hai Monastery, the Medicine Sutra is chanted and 49 candles are lit. Each person attending the meditation service receives a red envelope from the Abbess and a tangerine. In the red envelope is a fortune and a blessing. The tangerine is a form of blessing as well, as the sweet citric taste is meant to sweeten ones speech; its fragrant scent is meant to perfume the air; and its rich pulp is meant to nourish and bless the body.
Visiting family and friends is an important part of the celebration. Coming together on the holiday, at the Monastery, is a tradition at Quan Am Nam Hai that continues to be a blessing to all.