Lunar New Year, Tết, is a special celebration for countries utilizing the lunar calendar, Vietnam, is one of them. Everywhere, from the city to the countryside, from the roads to houses, from schools, markets to offices, the peach blossom flowers, red papers are there announcing the start of spring season. It is time to go home for the celebration. The children are happy with new clothes, the adults would clean the house and prepare. The roads become crowded, and its atmosphere is unable to describe. It becomes unforgettable for any Vietnamese, especially those far from home, like me. 

Tết celebration is the time for greeting, gathering, planting, and planning. The most important celebration is that it is time for family gatherings. On this occasion, one comes to visit their family, relatives, friends and starts planning. It is about what to do this coming year as it is the start of planting season.

As a Vietnamese Catholic, this new year celebration is so unique and meaningful. Vietnamese consider the three first days of the year – the first day for parents, the second day for relatives, and the third day for the teacher. With the teaching heritage from the missionaries, it becomes the representation of Trinitarian God: the first day to praise the creation of God and asking for peace; the second day for the Son’s work of salvation thus, to pray for our departed ones; and the third one is about the Holy Spirit’s act of sanctifying our work. How beautiful and meaningful it is when each one of us picks up a bible verse as the Word of God for us through the year. How grand it is when we gather in the Church for our Thanksgiving Mass, adoration, and the New Year’s Eve Eucharist.

It has been six years that I have not celebrated the new year with my family. However, I have never forgotten about it. My companions and I try to create an atmosphere of Tết in our community to lessen our homesickness. We make peach blossoms out of paper and cook Vietnamese foods such as Chưng’s cake (the sticky rice with yellow beans, black pepper, and meat, green onion in the middle and wrap by the banana leaves).  Hotpot signifies the unity and togetherness…. Everything we do is real, but the spirit and context was not there. I can make the decoration, but where can I find the feeling of preparing and waiting for the new year with my family? I have the food, but where can I find my parents, brothers, and sisters at my table to laugh and wish for the new year?

The moment I love most during this occasion is that at the first moment of the year, after the thanksgiving mass, all family members gather to offer prayer to God for our well-being, peace, unity, happiness, prosperity and trust our family in God’s care and providence. I can pray and have online Mass, but where do I find the unity and togetherness as a family here? How much I miss those moments, the only moment of the year I saw all my family members gathered around at the same table without any rush to work. It is only the memory now that the first dawn of the year, brothers, sisters, and I went to give New Year wishes to our grandparents, to receive “lì xì”– a red envelope with lucky money? Where can I find all these in a foreign land? Where can I find its spirit from afar? And where can my parents find their daughter’s presence among the religious brothers and sisters who come back for this celebration?

Ann Cecilia

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