Why do all kids in Vietnam share the same birthday?
Can you imagine having your birthday on the very same day as all your family, friends… and in fact, the entire country? This is exactly what happens during Vietnam’s new year celebrations. And what a party it is!
Like Chinese New Year, Tet Nguyen Dan, called Tet for short, follows the cycle of the moon and tends to fall between January 21 and February 19 each year. Officially Tet lasts for three days — though many families celebrate much longer! In days gone by, the holiday signalled the break between harvest time and the sowing of new crops.
As birthdays are not celebrated on the actual date someone was born, Vietnamese people give their age as that of the lunar symbol of the year of their birth. But don’t worry, this doesn’t mean Vietnamese children miss out! On the first morning of Tet every year, each child receives red envelopes from their family and friends containing ‘lucky’ money and everyone enjoys special foods over the celebrations, such as chicken, sticky rice, noodles, pork and coconut dishes and even earth cake.
How do families prepare for and celebrate Tet?
Tet is a time for family and friends and a lot of work goes into its planning! On the lead up to Tet, kitchen gods are worshipped, people go to market to buy special foods, firecrackers and flowers and homes are made spotless. Even debts are paid off, to start off the new year with a clean slate! The lucky color red is everywhere to be seen and families burn incense and offer food and trinkets to their ancestors.
As many of us decorate a tree at Christmas time, a small orange tree is decorated and displayed in Vietnamese homes — the more fruit it has, the luckier the tree! The first day of Tet is for seeing family and the first visitor to enter the home is seen as very important. The second day is for seeing friends and the last day, is kept for colleagues and teachers.
During Tet, sticky rice and salt are left outside to appease any ‘hungry ghosts’ who might be wandering through the neighborhood.
By Deborah L. Caine (Whyzz writer)