Chúc Mừng Năm Mới! Tết 2013

Vietnamese New Year, Tết, is  Vietnam’s biggest and most important holiday, and Hanoi is all decked out for the occasion.  image

The one on the left is the symbol of Hanoi. 

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The timing of the holiday is based off of the Lunar Calendar, and as you may know, each year has an animal representing it. This year’s animal is the snake. In the days leading up to Tết, people were busy buying new clothes, trees for the occasion and offerings either to burn or put on the family’s altar. 

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I was lucky enough to be invited to spend Tết with my friend Hien and her family. New Year’s Eve was spent watching comedy/commentary of all that had happened in Vietnam in the past year, stuffing lucky envelopes, “lì xì”with money to give as gifts and preparing the altar tables for various gods and ancestors, as well as one for Buddha. 

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The money in the envelopes should be new, and some colors are more lucky than others. Red is considered a very lucky color. 

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This is the altar for ancestors. The offerings include fruits, paper money, sweets, beer, cola and cigarettes among other things. 

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One important part of the altar is”Mâm Ngũ Quả”, or “five fruits”.  Even numbers are unlucky so it’s important that there is an odd number of fruits; this odd number rule applies to everything placed on the altar. To the left is “bánh chung”, which is made up of rice, mung beans and pork and wrapped in banana leaves. You can read about how it’s made here

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The altar for Buddha. There is no meat or alcohol on this altar. 

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Mâm Ngũ Quả with Buddha’s hand fruit.

At midnight, we passed out the xì lì and shot off some fireworks filled with confetti. image

Khanh with his lucky money. 

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All in all it was a great night, filled with lots of fun and many interesting experiences. If you made it all the way through this very long post, then congratulations! 🙂 I’ll be sharing other great Tết experiences soon, including New Year’s Day, so make sure you check back!

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Happy New Year! Guten Rusch ins Neue Jahr! As it’s New Year’s Eve, I thought I’d share an Austria New Year’s (or, Silvester) custom. I was introduced to this tradition last year by one of my English classes (thanks guys!). 

Step by step guide to Bleigießen (lead melting)

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Step 1: Gather your ingredients. You’ll need: 

-lead charm

-candle

-spoon that you don’t mind ruining

-cup or bowl of water (for cooling off the lead)

In the photo you’ll see that I had an variety of lead charms to choose from. I believe there are two different types of bottles and a four-leaf clover. 

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Step 2: Place the charm in the spoon and melt it over the candle flame. 

This can take a while, but you want the lead to melt completely. Notice I chose the four-leaf clover.

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Step 3Drop melted lead into the water.

Wait until the charm is completely melted, not just partially! The lead will become solid again once it hits the water.

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Step 4: Your lead should now be a new shape! Use this new shape to help you predict what the new year will bring. It’s kind of like deciphering a cloud’s shape; you have to REALLY use your imagination, as the new shape will most likely resemble an alien or some food that’s been rotting in the back of your fridge for a bit too long. A few examples of what your lead shape could mean are:

  • Ball- luck will roll your way
  • Fish – luck (This is what I decided mine was. Do you agree?)
  • Ring – wedding
  • Ladder – promotion
  • Glasses – wisdom

These are just a few examples. Here’s a longer list, but it’s all in German. Fun tradition, huh? Unfortunately, I have no idea where to buy lead charms in the U.S., but if anyone finds out please let me know!

Another great Austrian tradition is watching Dinner for One. I had never seen this before last year, but it’s pretty good. Check it out!