Growing up in Houston near a large Vietnamese community, we always attended at least one Tết celebration. They were typically held in large outdoor tents or at the convention center and were really local at first (I think my brother won chickens at one of the festivals?) but grew bigger and more mainstream by the time we were older. We always loved eating all the traditional Vietnamese New Year’s snacks — stuffed rice cakes cooked in banana leaves, roasted watermelon seeds, candied fruits, coconut candy — and trying to win money at the dice game. Afterward, we would meet at one of our uncles’ houses, collect red envelopes from our relatives, and spend all day eating and watching Paris by Night reruns on VHS (the last part wasn’t so fun).
Last weekend we walked to a local Vietnamese New Year (Tết) celebration held near our house called Tếtfest. Tết is the Vietnamese version of what most people refer to as Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year. It is typically THE biggest celebration in Viet culture with lots of food, gambling, family time, crisp money in tiny red envelopes, and beautiful yellow flowers that we always called “Tết flowers.” This Tet celebration was very very small, but we had a good time watching martial arts demonstrations, a Vietnamese áo dài fashion show and just celebrating Vietnamese new year in general. It felt like a little piece of home. It snowed big beautiful flakes when we walked back home from the festival, and even though it was freezing cold, the snow felt pretty magical when we were walking in it.
We took some red envelopes to our nephews today and spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out with them. Tonight we are celebrating with some of our favorite Vietnamese-style dishes and later with some homemade Vietnamese treats sent by my mom. I always love Tết because it’s a second chance at a new year. Instead of getting wasted with friends somewhere fancy, to me lunar new year is more about spending time with family, eating amazing (and amazing quantities of) food, and spreading good wishes.
Chúc Mừng Năm Mới // Happy New Year
Vạn sự như ý // May all your wishes come true