The Lunar New Year of the Snake will be my seventh Tết.
The first year I came here, I didn’t know any thing about Vietnamese culture.
Suddenly I went on the street and saw no taxi, no motorbike, and no bus.
The city looked like a ghost city and then somebody said this was Tết – Vietnamese Lunar New Year.
At that time, I was already working but not teaching English yet.
I came to Việt Nam as a tourist first but I love the country so I decided to stay here and work and even get married to a local man.
Now I love Tết after enjoying it three times at my husband’s family in Hồ Chí Minh City’s District 1.
For me, Tết is really a family celebration which is very different from the west where New Year is just a huge friend party.
It was a nice united feeling as the whole family gathered during days of Tết.
The first time we did Tết together with his family, I was surprised that the grandmother sat there and the whole family was in line waiting to pay their respects to her before anybody else.
First we have to go to the oldest person to say:
Chúc mừng năm mới
(Happy New Year).
That’s quite interesting for me and is opposite from New Year in Europe where people start with young ones first.
For example, we say happy New Year to the children first and then adults, and then older people.
During the first day of Tết, I visit my husband’s family and enjoy food that women in the family prepare for us.
It’s quite strange that women prepare food in the kitchen while men drink beers.
But I understand that they are happy to do that.
In western countries, women often chat in the living room while men cook and prepare food for women during holidays.
I don’t live with my husband’s family.
If I lived there, I think I would give the other women a hand with the cooking.
I intend to make a chocolate cake for my parents in law in the upcoming Tết.
I don’t make Vietnamese traditional Tết food because I don’t know how to cook that though I would like to.
What I find most interesting about Tết here is that nobody actually seems to come from Hồ Chí Minh City because they all go back to their home town during Tết which is quite strange for me.
That means not many people’s hometown in Hồ Chí Minh City.
I’ve been living here for seven years.
I love Việt Nam but one thing I do not like and will never like is the traffic.
I drive a motorbike and I have had accidents a few times.
It is so dangerous because there are no rules of traffic in Việt Nam.
But during Tết, I can drive everywhere, because nobody is there.
I go to work in 10 minutes, usually 40 minutes.
But I love Tết, this is the only time in the year you can drive safely in Hồ Chí Minh City.
The not-good thing about Tết in my opinion is that Tết tours are boring.
My mother came last year during Tết but the tours to the Mekong Delta region and other places were not good.
Tourists actually don’t like Tết because of that.
The thing I don’t like about Tết is all shops and banks are closed for five days or even more sometimes.
But I understand why it takes so long because Tết is the most important holiday for Vietnamese.
It’s the only holiday they get all year so of course, it’s more than one day.
We have now planned for shopping and anything ahead of Tết.
As for traditional Tết customs and practices, I don’t really understand most of them because I don’t believe in Gods but I follow them because I respect my husband’s family and would like to make them happy.
SONIA KARIN NGUYỄN DELESTRÉE