Foreigners express love for Tet holiday
Hanoians buy branches of Tet flowers along the city’s Nghi Tam Road
"There is a sacred feeling in the preparations for the Lunar New Year or Tet holiday in Viet Nam, especially on the eve, when people get together in their homes, waiting for the first day of a new year," Kang Se Won, from the Republic of Korea (RoK), told a Vietnam News Agency reporter.
Kang, who has spent more than six years living and working in Viet Nam, said she associated Tet with not only delicious food but also special traditions and customs.
Kang enrolled in the Ha Noi Teachers’ Training College’s Department of Philology in 1999, filled with a burning desire to learn the Vietnamese language. Coming from the RoK, a newly industrialised country with higher living standards than Viet Nam, difficulties were unavoidable. However, the strong feelings she has for her Vietnamese friends, who are always willing to lend her a helping hand, have been a great source of comfort to Kang through the difficulties of living in a new country.
Kang said her teachers were very gentle and kind, and they often paid more attention to her and her Chinese classmates than to other Vietnamese students. She said that her Vietnamese friends were very outgoing and affectionate.
Kang is also enchanted by the beautiful natural scenery of Viet Nam. She has travelled through many parts of the country and has worked as a tourist guide for Korean visitors to Viet Nam. Kang said most of her Korean friends who have visited Viet Nam considered the country a second homeland, as its people were friendly and Viet Nam was deeply imbued with "very humane values."
"I felt welcome everywhere I went, and I felt I could have stayed for days in any of the towns to share the Tet spirit," said Daniel Levitt, HIV/AIDS and Health Manager of USAID Viet Nam.
While talking with a VNA reporter about the upcoming Lunar New Year, Levitt said he had lived in Viet Nam for three and half years, and during his first Tet holiday in the country in 2003, he was enthusiastically invited to be the first person to enter many friends’ homes.
"Just after the Lunar New Year, I drove my motorbike 1,998 kilometres from Ha Noi to HCM City through the Central Highlands, which was wonderful because I was able to see how Vietnamese celebrate Tet in many different parts of Viet Nam. At each little town along way, Vietnamese invited me to sip rice wine from teacups, eat pumpkin seeds and tell them my story," said Levitt.
He said American people did not celebrate the Lunar New Year; they celebrated the New Year on only one day, and typically, there was very little cultural commonality in the way the event is celebrated.
He added that Americans generally did not make banh chung (square glutinous rice cake), calculate who was appropriate to enter the home first, hand out lucky money in red envelopes, present gifts of food to family and friends, of age one year.
"Perhaps, the greatest commonalities between the two countries are the tendencies to reflect on the last year and look forward to the next with higher hopes," he said.
Levitt also highlighted USAID Viet Nam’s contributions to HIV/AIDS programmes in the country in 2005, including its Government support to provide over 700 people with antiretroviral treatment, to assist drafting the new HIV/AIDS Law to be passed this year, and to offer technical assistance on the development of national IV/AIDS estimates and projections.
He added that USAID Viet Nam also supported a variety of humanitarian assistance programmes for disabled people, disaster mitigation, and environmental protection. During the year of the Dog, USAID the also planned to help the Government prevent and combat outbreaks of avian influenza, he said.
Sita Michael Bormann, a Danish woman, also said she had a strong feeling for the event. Bormann has been living and working in Viet Nam for more than two years as a coordinator for the EU/UNFPA Reproductive Health Initiative for Youth in Asia (RHIYTA) Viet Nam Programme. Her family, including her husband and two children, will celebrate their third Tet in Viet Nam this year.
Sita said she liked the Tet traditions in Viet Nam. "Through the traditions, foreigners will learn a lot about the history of Viet Nam," she said. "On my first Tet in Viet Nam two years ago, it was so interesting for me to witness all the traditions and rituals related to this important holiday. I visited some Vietnamese friends and colleagues and their families to see how they spent Tet," Sita remembered.
Like Tet in Viet Nam, Christmas is the biggest and most important holiday of the year in Denmark – the native country of Hans Christian Andersen. Both holidays provide a chance for all family members to reunite, putting aside work to chat with relatives and friends. They are also occasions to present sentimental and respectful gifts.
Tasty Vietnamese food is another reason the Danish official loves Vietnamese Tet. "I think that the Vietnamese people have a super culinary culture, and even after two and a half years, I still love Vietnamese food,particularly pho, spring rolls (nem), and salads, including lotus root salad, banana flower salad, and fish cooked in clay-pots as well," Sita said.
Nicolas Audier, a French lawyer, said he would return to Viet Nam later this month to enjoy his 11th Lunar New Year festival. Audier said during his first Tet in Viet Nam, in 1994, he was impressed by the peaceful atmosphere on the quiet streets where no shops, even restaurants or food stores, were open.
"On my first New Year’s Eve in Viet Nam, I was invited by local friends to attend a home party. It was very special," said Audier. He said he joined crowds to pray at a temple in the ancient Ha Noi residential quarter, right in the time between the old and the new year. He said he understood Vietnamese people’s belief in the zodiac and fortune-telling.
"Vietnamese people often go to fortune-tellers during the New Year holidays to learn about their fates for the coming year. These customs are very important to Vietnamese people, as they have existed for hundreds of years," said Audier. Audier has also celebrated Tet in rural areas and has ventured to homes in the remote mountainous provinces of Lai Chau, Hoa Binh, Cao Bang and Lang Son.
"Next time, I would like to spend the Tet holiday with ethnic minority families," Audier said.
"I love Viet Nam and I am really lured by the country’s land and people. Viet Nam remains conomically poor, but it is proud of its glorious history. Having frequented the country for years I can see a big difference between Viet Nam today and the country of the 1990s. Living conditions now are much better than what I saw in my first days," he said.
Audier was one of the four foreign lawyers awarded certificates of merit in 2003 by Minister of Justice Uong Chu Luu for their contributions to the development of the Vietnamese judiciary system.(VNS)