The start of the lunar new year known as Tet in Vietnam is upon us, and 2018 is Year of the Dog. Tet is the most important annual celebration to Vietnamese people worldwide. Tet officially begins Friday, February 16th as the first day of the Lunar New Year in 2018. The celebrations have already began around the globe and will last for up to a month.
People born in 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018 all fall under Year of the Dog.
Their personality traits and characteristics are loyalty to friends, family and work colleagues. They are honest and forthright, and popular in social circles. Everyone needs a Dog friend for advice and help. They are also good at helping others identify and dispense of bad habits. In spite of their calm outward appearance, they are often worried or anxious inside, but will not let anything stop them once they are set on a task.
When the Vietnamese greet you by saying “An Tết, it literally translates to “eat the Lunar New Year” because food is a primary focus. But people actually take in the holiday with all their being. Tết is the most important event of the year, symbolizing rebirth, family, and rejuvenation.
Many Vietnamese natives return to their home city to spend Tết with family and to pay respect to their ancestors and important friends in their life.
People are busy in the days before the first day of the Lunar New Year, known as Tết Nguyên Đán. They clean their homes and then decorate them, particularly with flowering branches of yellow hoa mai (ochna) or pink hoa đào (similar to apricot, peach and quince blossoms).
Everyone shops for specialty items wrapped in festive red and gold packaging. Superstitions abound as people try to ensure good luck, prosperity and happiness for the future. Among them is the belief that the first person to offer Tết greetings at your home will share his or her good fortune with you in the coming year. It is custom that gifts or red envelopes given during Tet should not be opened in front of the gift-giver, but held until the receiver can take in the full measure of the sentiment.
The crowning joy in each day of Tet is mealtime. Food is prepared in advance to allow people plenty of time for fun once the holiday begins. While regional differences exist, typical dishes include such rich meats as long-simmered kho made with pork or beef and various giò and chả sausages; pickled and preserved vegetables to cut their richness; and candies and sweetmeats to refresh the palate.
But regardless of the region, bánh chưng are always on the menu. The square sticky rice cakes are wrapped in green leaves (dong leaves in Việt Nam; banana leaves abroad), then boiled for up to twelve hours, depending on their size. The outer layer of rice becomes perfumed and tinted by the green leaf. Inside, the grains remain white and encase a buttery bean filling streaked with pepper and studded with chunks of lean pork and bits of its opaline fat.
Bánh chưng may be eaten warm or at room temperature; they may also be panfried up as crispy pancakes. Because they are inexpensive to prepare and they keep for a long time, Vietnamese families traditionally cook up dozens of them.
The simple deliciousness and genius of bánh chưng embodies the grace and spirit of the Vietnamese people. It is a food marvel, conjured from humble ingredients. It is incredibly Việt.
As Tet begins, take a moment to think about this beautiful tradition and how it could have a powerful effect on the rest of your year in all of your relationships. An Tết!