Tomorrow is the beginning of the Tet (New Year) celebrations in Vietnam and, since we don't hear too much about this part of the world these days, I would like to share this newspaper report of the situation there now.
"Vietnam's strong economic development has seen the emergence of middle class and high-income groups of people that can afford a luxurious lifestyle, which has spilled over into how they welcome Tet. Most of these people, especially in big cities like Hanoi, Hai Phong and Ho Chi Minh, no longer make the banh chung (square cakes made from glutinous rice, pork and green beans), lean pork paste and fruit jams during the Tet season.
"People choose blossoms trees in Hanoi to decorate their house during Tet
Modernization means they have neither the time nor the inclination for such activities. Spending many hours at offices and factories leaves little time for cooking at home, and everything. Expensive imported items and locally-made food products that serve many budget levels are available in the market. From street vendors, groceries stores, and regional markets to plush upmarket trade centers, the options are plentiful if you have money.
"Already clogged with motorbikes and an increasing number of cars, streets in the cities are snarled on pre-Tet days as people rush to markets, supermarkets, trade centers and other shops. “The number of customers coming here during the Tet shopping season has increased many times over ordinary days. We have prepared more goods and mobilized more staff to serve them,” says Nguyet Anh, an employee of the Trang Tien Plaza in Hanoi.
"At a supermarket in the plaza, streams of customers with shopping carts loaded with foods, beverages, cosmetics and garments cram through its narrow doorways. “In my mother’s generation, cooking used to be one of their joys during Tet. Now, we don’t want to spend much time on it [cooking]. We want to spend Tet relaxing,” says nurse Nguyen Thi Hanh, 27, while choosing some semi-processed chicken.
People today also spend more time decorating their houses with flowers and bonsai for Tet. Many have spent hundreds of dollars on bonsai plants and trees with beautiful shapes for the holiday, which falls on January 26 this year.
"People in the north have a tradition of displaying peach blossoms and kumquat trees while those in the south display ochna plants that bloom yellow flowers during Tet.
This year, many people in the south have chosen peach blossoms and kumquat bonsai mainly grown in Hanoi and the northern provinces of Bac Giang and Hung Yen, as well as that of ochna plants grown in southern localities, says gardener Nguyen Duc Minh, as he waters trees pruned in the shapes of pyramids, dragons, phoenixes and even waterfalls.
"There are other changes in the way Tet is celebrated, including one indispensable activity, which is to visit relatives and not leave without eating or drinking. That custom is changing now. Instead of welcoming Tet at home, many people are choosing beaches, including Nha Trang, Phan Thiet, Phu Quoc and Tuan Chau, while others prefer to travel abroad, mainly to regional countries like China, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia.
"Another Tet tradition that has changed a lot in recent years is the offering of gifts. Previously, Tet gifts were locally-produced wine bottles and boxes of jams as offerings to parents, relatives and bosses as a sign of affection and respect.
Now, many people choose to buy expensive gifts for their superiors with some presents destined for officials worth thousands of dollars.
"Amidst all the changes, there is a constant. Every New Year is awaited with expectations and hopes of greater joy and prosperity in the coming year. Visitors check out orchids and ornamental plants at September 23rd Park’s Tet flower market
"The Youth Cultural House in Ho Chi Minh City has a full schedule of traditional events to celebrate Tet that will go on until the fifth day of the new year. City sings, dances and blossoms for Tet. The Tet Viet Ky Suu 2009 (2009 Vietnamese Lunar New Year of the Buffalo) festival opened last Thursday with displays of pictures and calligraphy that are also for sale. It also features lion dancing and a contest between don ca tai tu (traditional southern folk music) groups.
"A “calligraphy street” will be set up in front of the house in Pham Ngoc Thach Street, and was open until January 25. It has calligraphers showing off their skills, exhibitions and sales of their works. Also, a photography exhibition will trace Vietnam’s development through the years, and a weeklong tea festival opening today will showcase the nation’s tea-drinking culture. A tourist looks at calligraphy on display in front of the HCMC Youth Cultural House in District 1
On Friday, three days before Tet, visitors will be taught how to make banh tet (round glutinous cake), which will be given later that day to 2,000 orphans along with li xi (lucky money given to children for Tet).
"Traditional Vietnamese martial arts and co nguoi (human Chinese chess) performances will begin on January 27 until the 30th. The city is also blooming with Tet flower markets to mark the holiday, with the largest flower market, the Tet Flower Market at September 23rd Park, opening on Sunday in District 1. The park is vibrant with the colors of peach blossoms from the north, kumquats from the Mekong Delta, and ochnas from Binh Dinh and Ben Tre provinces. A seller from northern Hai Duong Province said peach blossoms were more expensive this year due to higher workers’ wages and transportation costs. An eight-year-old peach blossom tree is priced VND1.5 million (US$86) while smaller ones sell for around VND600,000. For the first time ever, strawberry trees from the Central Highlands’ Lam Dong Province are being sold at the market for VND80,000 and many cool-temperature flower varieties, such as lilies, are available.
"In addition, the Nguyen Hue Flower Street will open in downtown this Friday as the epicenter of all the city’s Tet seasonal celebrations. The street fair, including hundreds of booths and live outdoor performances, will take place on Nguyen Hue Boulevard in District 1. Three other large Tet flower markets are currently open at District 1’s Le Van Tam Park, Gia Dinh Park in Go Vap District and the Phu My Hung New Urban Area in District 7."
Source: Thanh Nien (Youth) News 20/01/2009
My daughter was concerned that nothing was said about those without money and so she writes this 'to give a balanced picture'.
'Ostentatious spending on an unprecedented scale is in sharp contrast to the difficult time facing all too many as the New Year approaches. To make money, you need money, so for those on low salaries, including many highly-skilled professionals, even affording necessities such as normal food, school and medical fees presents a real problem, and travelling home for the festivities in unthinkable.'
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