Saturday, January 26, 2008

Tet Holiday February 7th

How lucky we are to be here, to witness the most significant festival of the year in Vietnam, Tet. This celebration of the lunar new year is a celebration of family ( it is every one's birthday), also a significant religious or spiritual occasion. There will be chanting in the pagodas, the lighting of bushels of incense. Many gifts will be exchanged and rituals followed to bless the house, and one's business. Wealth, health and good fortune for the coming year all rely on much cleansing and atonement through prayer and appeasement to the gods.
Houses are swept clean.Today,the first day of sunshine for awhile, there are table clothes, rugs, curtains and blankets drying on every fence, hedge, shrub and tree branch in the nieghbourhood. Houses are being painted or more often color washed with a large straw brush. Windows and doors are being refinished and the little cafes on each street corner are busy painting the tables and chairs. When all is clean the "kitchen god" is ushered out, carried perhaps by a lucky yellow fish. The Kitchen god reports the families virtues to the Jade Emperor and returns some days later with luck for the New Year.
Decorations are starting to appear. Lights, paper lanterns, kumquat trees in bloom bearing both yellow and green . Happy New Year ( Chuc Mung Nam Moi) banners flutter everywhere. The most festive and lucky colors are red and yellow.
Food plays a central role in this holiday and we expect to eat many traditional foods. We see the wrapped rice cakes ( either sweet or with bean curd) everywhere now in the markets and in flower shops. Tomorrow I will help Quyen ( our hostess at Reaching Out) to make these delicacies for the staff end of year party.
The magnificent creations pictured here, using plants, flowers and rice cakes are works of art.
As we learn each day about this complex holiday we will add our stories.

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