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Archive for January, 2014

Tết is also an occasion for pilgrims and family reunions. During Tết, Vietnamese visit their relatives and temples, forgetting about the troubles of the past year and hoping for a better upcoming year. Tết is the first day of spring and the festival is often called Hội xuân (spring festival). This year, Tết will start the year of the Horse on 31 Jan, 2014.

Beside preparing for Tết like getting a kumquat trees or a peach trees for decoration and symbol of the spring, Vietnamese do not forget to prepare the red envelope for lucky money. So on these day, the elders gives the young children lucky money and wish them the best wishes on their education and health. Vice versa, often, the adults children will give their parents & elders the lucky money and wish them health and happiness.

In my family, after greeting New Year’s Eve with my friends around Hoan Kiem Lake, I will go to the pagoda and pray for a smooth and peaceful 2014. And I am also the first person stepping in the house (which is very important and totally taboo not to be the first step person if you are not invited). Then I will give a red envelope with lucky money to my mom and wish her well.

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Meaning of the custom 

Lucky Money to welcome the new year during Tet. It’s only such a small amount that can bring good fortune to the upcoming year. However, the Lucky Money is not limited only on the first day but we can even last to the end of Tet holidays (5 – 6th of Tet holidays) and given at first met of the year.

Normally, the Lucky Money is put inside tiny red envelope, which represents the  secrecy and privacy. The red envelopes symbolize luck and wealth. The red color signifies for the prosperity and great luck. And the more envelopes people receive, the luckier they will gain. And the elders would return good advice and words of wisdom, encouraging the younger ones to keep up with the schoolwork, live harmoniously with others, and obey their parents’ advice.

Over time, red envelopes now are very various but people is interested in one with the animal that is symbolizing the lunar calendar for that year, like this year – Year of Horse, many of Horse printed red envelopes are sold out. Lucky Money custom has been preserved till today. And parents will teach children how to save and spend the present money in meaningful ways, such as the purchase of books, school aids or help for friends in difficulties.

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Travelling in Vietnam during Tết

– Smile and say “Chuc Mung Nam Moi” – Happy New Year in Vietnamese to everybody you see. My friends even got lucky money while travelling up north!

– Prepare some red envelopes and join in the fun. You may see them sold everywhere on the streets, in the supermarkets before Tet. Or you can ask the receptionist of the hotel to help buying some.

– It depends on who you give to, but the notes putting inside the envelope can be various from $1, $5 or $10. $2 bill is very special and lucky for Vietnamese.

– Giving lucky money is not compulsory but recommended.

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Chuc Mung Nam Moi!!!

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Fullmoon so it is, the last fullmoon of lunar calendar 2013. As an old habbit, the large majority of Vietnamese people are now looking for a dog-meat restaurant to either enjoy this kind of special and nutritious food or to committ in some supertitous belief that helps to blow away all their bad lucks. So what is it? What’s really behind the dog-meat story?

Dog meat - Source: Internet

Dog meat – Source: Internet

Travelers to Vietnam are always astonished by seeing the the dog meat to be displayed in market malls, sometimes still in good shape, sometimes are well chopped and placed in the table of the dining area. More often a case, they turn into frustrated and curious as why this kind of very exotic food to be available in a friendly country of Vietnam. Why these local people treat their pet badly?, how can they kill and eat their own little dog? on and on… Let me clarify with you right away that Vietnamese people don’t eat their own dogs. They do eat, but just the dogs that raised in the farm or from some unknown sources and to be supplied to the restaurant.

Unlike other part of Asia like China and South Korea, where dog meat is part of the regular food choices, Vietnamese people eat the dog with a hope for luck to be around soon ( second half of the lunar month ) and to clean up totally any bad luck they might have commited during the last moon ( first half of the lunar month ). That’s the reason why dog-meat restaurants rarely open before the moon is full as chance for the diners to walk in the first half of the month is very limted. Culturally speaking, this must have been an aged-old customs and this habbit/practice just being handed down from generation to generations. Do you think it is a good custom to keep or not?

I have not been eating the dog meat for several years and will not have any excuse to try it again in the future. So do a lot of my friends or people I know. It shows a good signal of a more integreted and civilized thinking of the new Vietnamese generation. There should be no reason to blame bad luck or good luck by eating the dogs, decision is yours, guys!

The Indochina Voyages Team

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