Vietnam’s Tet factor:

Int’l friends celebrate spirit of togetherness, optimism

(VEN) - Vietnam’s most important and keenly anticipated traditional festival, Tet, or the Lunar New Year, is a time of renewal and reunion for relatives, friends and loved ones from all corners of the world. The enchanting sights, sounds and spirit of Tet never fail to reach out and embrace international friends living in Vietnam. Some diplomats in Ho Chi Minh City share their personal Tet impressions, experiences and feelings.

U.S. Consul General Susan Burns celebrates Tet with a stroll down Ho Chi Minh City's Nguyen Hue Flower Street dressed in Vietnam's traditional dress, the ao dai

Int’l friends celebrate spirit of togetherness, optimism

What impresses me the most about Tet in Vietnam is its meaning and importance to the Vietnamese people. You can see it in the way they prepare for Tet. Everywhere I go, I see the lucky color of red, the yellow color of apricot blossoms, and the pink color of peach blossoms. Tet songs are played in every mall, restaurant, and building. It is good to see that with all the fast-paced economic developments, Vietnamese people still cherish traditional Tet and look forward to it as a sacred and precious time to slow down and gather with friends and family.

Here at the U.S. Consulate General Ho Minh City, we take Tet seriously. Believe it or not, we prepare for Tet very early – each year in October, we launch the Tet Card Design Contest for all Vietnamese aged 12 and above. We use the winning artwork for the U.S. Mission’s official Tet card. We also organize a Tet Party every year at the U.S. Consulate General where Vietnamese and American staff share traditional Tet dishes, dress in ao dai and enjoy an evening of cultural performances together.

I especially love how the Tet foods carry meaningful wishes for the New Year, like the canh kho qua (stuffed bitter melon soup). My Vietnamese colleagues tell me that they have it during Tet to shed all the sorrows and hardship of the past year, and to welcome a new, happier year. I love the wordplay and I think it reflects Vietnamese people’s optimism and wit.

I know that people here often have thit kho trung, banh tet, and canh kho qua during Tet. Some of my colleagues in the Foreign Agricultural Service have recommended using U.S. pork to make thit kho trung. I think that’s a great twist to a delicious Vietnamese dish that I look forward to having this year.

I love being in Ho Chi Minh City during Tet and the lead-up to the holiday. You can feel that something big is coming; the whole city becomes so vibrant, colorful, and cheerful. The streets are more crowded, and people seem to be in a hurry but in a very positive way.

Last year, I had the chance to wear my first ao dai to the Nguyen Hue flower street and was amazed by how the street radiates with flowers and creative installations. I also love Ho Chi Minh City’s idea to display foreign diplomatic missions’ booths, including that of the U.S. Consulate General, along flower street because it demonstrates the city’s commitment to welcoming and strengthening cooperation with international partners. Please do come and visit our booth this year, take photos and tag our Facebook page, so that we can collect our shared moments together.

This year marks my second Tet in Vietnam, and I will celebrate this precious time of the year in Ho Chi Minh City, my second home. One of the things I love most about Tet is the opportunity to spend time gathering with my loved ones. This year, I’m also looking forward to enjoying a quieter Ho Chi Minh City – a very rare side of this fast-growing city. I might check out some local flower markets like Ben Binh Dong and Ho Thi Ky before Tet. I hope to visit the Nguyen Hue flower street again to celebrate the New Year atmosphere with Vietnamese people. I can’t wait to take a few photos here again this year.

2024 will mark the first anniversary of our two countries’ Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, I am sure it will be a good year with even more fruitful collaborations across many fields, from economics and education to environment and trade.

French Consul General Emmanuelle Pavillon Grosser and her husband try their hands at wrapping banh chung, the quintessential Tet dish

Int’l friends celebrate spirit of togetherness, optimism

Since my arrival, I have had the opportunity to celebrate Tet twice and each time, it is the colorful and festive atmosphere that first impressed me. The decorations in the streets and shops create an atmosphere of optimism and joy, which is found among the Vietnamese. Also, when it comes to important family reunions that no one wants to miss, it reminds me a little of the end of year celebrations back home in France. For me, these are very beautiful customs and traditions.

During our first Tet, my husband and I discovered the multiplicity of activities linked to this period. Between the traditional markets where many Vietnamese stroll around in colorful ao dai, the making of traditional cakes and the creation of magnificent calligraphy, there is plenty to keep you busy!

We had the opportunity to participate in the making (before tasting them!) of banh chung and banh tet, and were able to share traditional meals with Vietnamese people. It is always interesting to discover new culinary specialties, especially for French people - we are quite known for our love of gastronomy!

In France, we also have this tradition of presenting your wishes at the start of the year and offering money to people we care about. Wishing the best to those close to you, considering that a new era is beginning, seems normal to me.

The first year, we spent part of the Tet holidays on the island of Phu Quoc, where we notably attended the Lion Dance. Celebrating the start of the year on such a beautiful island and under the sun remains an excellent memory.

I do not know yet what exactly we’ll do this Tet, but I am sure that we will make the most of the festive atmosphere. And I would like to take this opportunity to wish an excellent Year of the Dragon to all our Vietnamese friends!

Indian Consul General Madan Mohan Sethi and his wife (standing) learn how to wrap traditional Tet cakes

Int’l friends celebrate spirit of togetherness, optimism

The traditional Tet atmosphere in Vietnam has a unique charm and the unparalleled sense of joy, warmth, and profound cultural significance resonates. Personally, I find immense delight in the Tet holiday, as it encapsulates a multifaceted celebration—a time for family reunions, paying homage to ancestors, and weaving the intricate tapestry of good wishes for the approaching year.

Throughout my years in Vietnam, Tet has become an incredibly meaningful period, when the fabric of familial bonds is tightly woven together. The tradition of gathering everyone, engaging in heartfelt conversations, exchanging thoughtful gifts and expressing aspirations for the future creates an atmosphere imbued with love and shared joy. It is during these moments that plans for the upcoming year are openly discussed and collectively embraced, fostering a sense of unity and shared purpose.

One aspect of Tet that particularly captivates my palate is the exquisite vegetarian banh tet. Crafted with meticulous care, this culinary masterpiece combines the rich flavors of sticky rice and green beans, offering a delectable vegetarian option that further enhances the festive spirit of the occasion.

Embracing the essence of travel during Tet adds another layer of richness to the experience. In 2021, our journey led us to the enchanting locales of Phan Thiet and Nha Trang, where we reveled in the natural beauty of pristine beaches and absorbed the unique atmosphere that each region exudes during this celebratory time.

Reflecting beyond the borders of Vietnam, the Lunar New Year across various Asian countries has the common thread of being a significant occasion for renewal and rejuvenation. It serves as a well-deserved respite, allowing individuals to unwind after a year of diligent work and dedicated study. The Lunar New Year, including the Vietnamese Tet, becomes a pivotal moment to recharge one's energy, fostering a sense of readiness and anticipation for the exciting adventures that the New Year promises.

In essence, the traditional Tet atmosphere in Vietnam, with its blend of cultural depth, familial warmth and delightful traditions, encapsulates a holistic celebration that not only honors the past but also energizes individuals for the boundless opportunities that lie ahead in the coming year.

Dutch Consul General Daniel Stork and his family enjoy typical Tet dishes with Miss Universe Vietnam 2017 H’Hen Nie

Int’l friends celebrate spirit of togetherness, optimism

Tet is the most special occasion of the year that I have had the opportunity to experience twice since the beginning of my term in Vietnam. It brings warmth, happiness, togetherness and family reunions, very similar to the Christmas season in my country, the Netherlands.

On the days leading up to Tet, the atmosphere begins to hustle and bustle as people shop, prepare to decorate their homes and move around more to get things done. The dynamic energy of these days evoke excitement in foreigners like me and we too look forward to celebrating this important festival.

Strolling around Ho Chi Minh City during the Tet holidays is a wonderful experience. What has impressed me most is the ubiquitous presence of flowers. They are everywhere. Shopping centers, amusement parks, entertainment areas and streets are all decorated with miniature landscapes and the vibrant colors of Tet flowers. Last year, the Consulate General of the Netherlands displayed a small booth at the Nguyen Hue flower street during Tet. We are very happy and honored to have contributed to the brilliance and excitement of this area as it welcomes spring visitors from all over the country.

My small family has experienced warm and happy Tet holidays together in Ho Chi Minh City for the last 2 years. We (my wife, 2 children and I) wore ao dai on this special occasion. Like Vietnamese families, we displayed and decorated hoa mai for Tet at our small house. To understand more about Vietnam's special Tet cuisine, we also tried our hand at cooking dishes like nem and banh chung together with H’Hen Nie, and we tried typical dishes with Thanh Duy at the beautiful Ben Thanh market. Vietnamese cuisine is so wonderful!

I’ve also learned more about Vietnamese traditions through the festival’s interesting and meaningful customs and cultural activities that show care and affection for each other, be it relatives, friends or partners, through activities like exchanging New Year wishes, giving lucky money, etc. It is of course also a moment for families to get together again, often in Vietnam’s beautiful green countryside. People appreciate getting back to nature and to their roots. What I appreciate about Vietnamese culture is the way it values its past and its ancestors but at the same time is very much forward looking and thinking of the wellbeing of future generations.

I am very excited about welcoming the upcoming Tet 2024. This year too, our family will still stay in Vietnam to enjoy this meaningful festival for the third time. Already, I can feel the atmosphere of Tet coming very close. On this occasion, I would like to wish Vietnamese friends good health, happiness, success and prosperity in the Year of the Dragon! For me this is a special year as I was born in 1976 and thus it is my year too.

In particular, I wish that the Vietnam-Netherlands relationship is raised to new heights when the King and Queen of the Netherlands visit Vietnam in March for the first State Visit to Vietnam. This will be happening soon after we celebrate Tet 2024!

Recorded by My Phung

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