Viet Nam traditional Tet
What is Tet?
"Tet" is a word of the Chinese origin and a phonetic transcription of "Tiet", a Sino-Vietnamese term which means "the joint of a bamboo stem" and, in a wider sense, the "beginning" of a meteorological period of the year."
The passage from one period to the next may cause climatic disturbances (heat, rain, mist) that must be exorcised by ritual sacrifices and festivities. Thus, there are many Tet's throughout the year (Mid-Autumn Tet, Cold Food Tet, etc.). The most important of all is "Tet Ca" ("Big Tet" or simply "Tet"), which marks the Lunar New Year.
Tet occurs somewhere in the last ten days of January or the first twenty day of February, nearly halfway between winter solstice and spring equinox. Although the Lunar New Year is observed throughout East Asia, each country celebrates Tet in its own way in conformity with it own national psyche and cultural conditions.
For the Vietnamese people, Tet is like a combination of Christmas, Western New Year's Day, Easter, American Thanksgiving, and everyone's birthday. It is festival of communion. Purity, renewal, and universal peace.
How is the Vietnamese zodiac calculated?
The calendar in Vietnam's ancient agricultural society was based on the regularly changing phases of the moon. Most Vietnamese, even city dwellers and overseas Vietnamese, have a lunar calendar in their homes to consult for the dates of festival and auspicious days.
The date of the New Year varies from year to year, because it is based on the on the lunar calendar. The equinoxes and solstices that mark the beginning of the European seasons are taken as the midpoint by the Asian calendar, with the result that each Vietnamese season begins six weeks earlier than its European counterpart.
Each year is "sponsored" sequentially by one of twelve animals of the Vietnamese zodiac: the Rat comes first, and then the Ox or Buffalo, followed in order by the Tiger, Cat, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Goat or Ram, Money, Cock, Dog, and last of all, the Pig.
Of these animals, one is mythical (the dragon), and four ( rat, tiger, snake, and monkey) are wild, shunning contact with humans. Seven are domesticated. Every twelve year, the sponsorship reverts to the same animal. For example, the years 1976, 1988, 2000, and 2012 are Dragon Year.
In addition, the Vietnamese use another set of ten heavenly or celestial signs, usually called "stems". Combining the ten heavenly stems with the twelve earthly animals results in a sixty-year cycle, similar to the Western century of one hundred year. The celestial "stem" attached to the zodiac animal provides a modifying influence on the characteristics of the animal. For example, the year of the dog sign can be "modified" by five of the ten different associated "stems".
Each year has import for humans who have converging or diverging signs. The following examples are given in the order that they occur in the cycle. Each of the twelve animals also "sponsors" a two-hour period of time of the day.
What is your character if you are a Rat?
A Rat year prophesies a year of chaos. Rat people are charming and attractive to the opposite sex and have a fear of light and noise. They are active and dynamic but can be fussy a bout little things. Rat can have a positive side since rats are sign there is grain in the storage bins; thus, rats represent a bountiful harvest. Because the rat is a nocturnal animal and can be heard scurrying about at midnight, the period of time between 11 PM, and 1 A.M are the Hours of the Rat.
What is your character if you are a Buffalo?
The Buffalo symbolizes industriousness and patience. Its year is one of slow, steady progress, patient strength, traits suitable for a scientist. The buffalo is a traditional symbol of spring and agriculture because of its association with the plow and its pleasure wallowing in the mud. People of this year are thought to possess the characteristics of that animal: steadiness, placidity, but stubbornness when crossed. The Buffalo Hours are from 1 to 3 A.M. When buffalo ear in preparation for the day's farm work.
What is your character if you are a Tiger?
Tigers are quick to anger and indecisive, but they can be flexible and accommodate their personalities to suit circumstances. The tiger is king of the jungle and, nocturnal, evokes images of darkness and stormy weather. The period from 3 to 5 A.M is the of the Tiger, when the tiger returns to his lair after prowling at night. A woman born in a Tiger Year will be unhappy in marriage, but a man will often be talented and suited for high position.
What is your character if you are a Cat?
Cats are smooth talkers, talented, and ambitious and will succeed in studies. They are in conflict with rats. A Cat person has a supple mind and patient personality and is one who knows how to wait for favorable conditions before taking action. Cat Hours are between 5 and 7 A.M. when cats begin their prowling?
What is your character if you are a Dragon?
Unlike the dragon of the West, the Dragon in Asia mythology can be protective and is a symbol of the male (yang) principal of the universe and of royal authority. The Dragon liver in all the elements: under the water, on the ground, and in the air. The Dragon is a water sign and a propitious sign for agriculture. Dragon is sincere, energetic but short-tempered and stubborn. They are symbols of power, wealth, prosperity, and royal power. There is a saying, "In the Year of the Dragon and of the Snake, everyone keeps food for him or herself". Famine is apt to appear in these years. The Dragon Hours are between 7 and 9 A.M.
What is your character if you are a Snake?
Snake speak little but have tremendous wisdom. They are associated with the dap earth. Snakes symbolism the eternal revolution of the ages and the succession, dissolution, and regeneration of humanity. Snake people are considered calm, gentle, profound, and compassionate and persistent. The snake Hours are from 9 to 11 A.M.
That is your character if you are a Horse?
Horse people are smooth tellers and given to compliments and generosity; therefore, they are popular, but they rarely listen to advice. The horse's propensity to kick evokes images of a quick-tempered personality. The horse's speed leads it to be compared with the sun, which traverses the earth daily; in legends, the sun is associated with fiery steeds. The horse is invested with purity, nobility, strength, and its friendship with humans. Noontime, when the sun is highest, is the Horse Hours.
What is your character if you are a Goat?
Goat people are calm and shy, unassertive and self-effacing. They are clunsy in speech so they make poor salespersons, but thay are compassionate regarding the less fortunate and tend to help others. They are often taken advantage of because of their natural kindness and timidity. The Goat Hours are between 1 and 3 P.M.
What is your character if you are a Monkey?
The Monkey is an erratic genius. Monkeys are clever and skillful when making financial deals. They are cheerful, skillful, curious, and inventive, but they many drive people away by talking too much and begin contemptuous of others. Their weakness lies in their tendency to be erratic and inconsistent. The time between 3 and 5P.M. are the Monkey Hours.
What is your character if you are a Rooster?
The Rooster Year represents a period of hard work and activity since the hen and rooster are busy from morning to night. The Rooster's comb is a mark of high intelligence and of a literary spirit, but an excess of these traits can lead to mental illness. People born in this year are considered profound thinkers. At the same time, the rooster is a symbol of protection against fire. For that season, people often hang pictures of a red rooster in their houses. People born in this year earn their living from small business, which they practice with diligence like a "chicken scratching the soil for worms". Crowing rooster drive ghosts away at sunrise. A white rooster is sometimes placed on the coffin of funeral processions to clear the way of demons. The rooster controls the hours between 5and 7 P.M.
What is your character if you are a Dog?
The Year of the Dog indicates future prosperity. The Dog guards against intruders the world over. Pairs of stone or ceramic dogs guard each side of the entrance to village and temples. The Dog Year will be secure and protected. The Hour of the Dog is 7 to 9 P.M, when people of rural Viet Nam have gone to bed and leave the dog to keep watch.
What is your character if you are a Pig?
The Pig symbolizes the wealth of the forest since the boar maintains its lair in the woods. Boar people are chivalrous and gallant, honest, courageous, studious, and well-informed but also headstrong, short-tempered, and impulsive. The Hour of the Pig is between 9 and 11 P.M.
What is the origin of the Banh Chung and Banh Day?
After he had successfully completed the war against the Yin(1600-1100 B.C) aggressors and after peace had been restored in the four corners of his kingdom King Hung the Sixth decided to relinquish his throne and entrust one of his twenty-two sons with the care of the kingdom's affairs.
One day, he assembles the twenty-two princes and said to them: "Go through the world far and wide and bring back to me recipes and materials for dishes that me palate does do not know and would relish. The one who comes back with the best recipe shall become heir to my throne.
There ensued a flurry among the princes clad in their splendid garments.
Followed by numerous escorts, twenty-one of them set out upon their journey. Some made for the far and immense southern seas of deep blue waters, the waves of which splashed yellow and blue sparks on moonlit nights. There, lived fish of all kinds and tortoises with yellow-flowered, red-brown shells.
Some sons went north into the thick forests where centuries-old trees grew with trunks so big it took three men with outstretched arms to embrace them. There, the forests teemed with diverse game and fowl. Other sons scoured the wide and densely populated deltas, with their great variety of fowl and animals. Their minds contrived a host of delicious dishes.
Full of excitement and anticipation and assisted by their numerous servants, the princes undertook a careful investigation: every one of them hoped the gem-studded gold crown would soon adorn his head.
Only one prince did not leave the Royal Palace. This was Lang Lieu, the sixteenth in rank. His mother had died in the prime of her beauty and youth, and he had grown up in loneliness. Except for the care givens him by his few servants, he was not like his half-brothers, who's grow up in the warmth of maternal love and has a large retinue. There no one to choose brocade for his clothes and to oversee the attendants in his service. Alone and without could find what the king asked. And so this son stayed at the palace, pondering his plight in loneliness day and night.
One night, a spirit appeared to him a dream and said: "Be aware that without rice, humanity cannot cubist. Take some glutinous rice, some beans and some pork, both fatty and lean. Pick some dong leaves and white bamboo splints to make thin, flexible tape. Soak the rice with clear water and boil a part of it, and smoke the leaves. Cook the beans and the pork. When the rice is done, pound it into a dome-shaped plain cake, banh day, and thus give it the appearance of the sky.
Wrap the rest of the rice with a stuffing of bean paste and some bits of lard and lean pork in the dong leaves. Bind it tightly and cave it a square shape, the shape of the earth. Stew it for a day to make Banh Chung. The suffing rejects what is inside the earth's crust. Give these to your father the king, and you will ascend the throne".
After the apricot trees had blossomed one, the half-brothers of the lonely prince returned with their weary escorts. The son's garments were worn-out and dust-covered, but each of them was filled with anticipation and hope.
With his own hands, each son at once prepared a dish of the most unusual kind, using the materials he had brought back and according to the recipe he has learned. Twenty - one times, ride delicious dishes were served to the king. But twenty-one times, the king shook his head.
Then he asked for Lang Lieu, who brought him a white dome-shaped cake a steaming square cake wrapped in smoked dong leaves and bound with flexible bamboo tape.
The prince unwrapped the leaves and uncovered a green, sticky, soft cake, which he cut into wedges with the bamboo tape that bound the leaves. The inside of the cake appeared white and yellowish-green studded with opaque pieces of lard brown bits of bean.
The king picked up a lump and put it is his mouth. A feeling of unusual velvety softness pervaded his palate and stimulated a craving for more. He ate lump after finished the whole cake.
Then he ate the dome-shaped cake. The plain and simple taste of which also filled him with unusual delight. He asked his son: ‘Your mother is dead, and you have few servants. How did you come to know the recipe and materials of these cakes?"
The son told the king that a spirit had appeared to him in a dream, and ho told the king what the heavenly spirit had said.King hung the Sixth deemed the story most remarkable and in a voice ringing with deep affection said: "I declare you heir to my throne. Tomorrow, you shall be crowned".
King Hung decided they the dome -shaped cake should be name "banh day" (plain cake) and the square one should be called "banh Chung" (atewed cake). Sine then, Banh day is make for festivals or ceremonies, and Banh Chung has been the cake made in the twelfth moon as a token of thankfulness to the good earth, which has fed people throughout the year.
Why is a branch of beach blossoms in the home?
At the approach of Tet, every Vietnamese home is adorned with a branch of peach blossoms. If the time is properly reckoned, a peach branch, slightly burned at the end put in a vase of fresh water, will blossom exactly on the morning of the first day of the New Year. A horticultural marvel, you may think. True enough, but remember that in olden days, the peach branch was used as charm: it could ward off evil spirits that prowled by night.
Legend has it that in the distant past, a peach tree of fantastic size grew on the slopes a mountain in China. It's a abundant folia spread for hundreds of leagues around. Two powerful genii lived in it and few on the flesh of devils and other evils spirits. Naturally, the late fled, and the mountain dwellers sleep in peace without fear of having their dreams disturbed.
But the end of every year, the genii had to go to Heaven to report to the Celestial Lord. Fearing that the evil spirits would do them harm in the genii's absence, the inhabitants of this mountain cut a branch of the magic peach tree to decorate their ancestral altars.
Some caution people went even further: They wrote the genii's name or sketched their likenesses on a strip of red paper, which they attached on the peach branch. Very few devils dared come near. That is how the use of peach braches spread and reached Vietnam, where, for centuries, local inhabitants have rejoiced in Tet under the protection of these spring flowers.
Why is peach blossoms so popular at Tet?
Many villages in the suburbs of Ha Noi specialize in growing peach trees. When Tet draws near, each household in the capital city makes a point of procuring at least a small branch of peach flowers. Petals are single or double according to the variety, and their colors range from a delicate pink to carmine red. Connoisseurs like double petals and tender rosy tones, but popular preference goes to more vided tints.
Peach blossoms owe their popularity to reasons that vary according to individual age and taste. Most people like them because of the beauty of their slender petals, but some see a symbol of prosperity and good fortune in the vividness of their colors. The order generation believes in the power of peach blossoms to repel evil.
Scholars of classical Chinese culture call them " flowers of happiness", in remembrance of the legendary adventures of two young students of ancient times, Liu Huang and Ruan Zhao, who wandered along a river bordered with blossoming peach trees and, at the end, found themselves in a fairyland. Others see a symbol of faithfulness, recalling the brothers-in-arms Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei, who swore fidelity to one Three Kingdoms in ancient China. The three remained true to their ouch until the end of their lives.
Why do people pick a branch of greenery just after midnight on New Year's Eve?
There was once a blessed land where fairies came when they felt homesick for stay on earth. They could be seen dancing or chatting. Wonderful trees grew wherever they left a footprint or hand sprint. These trees lost all their laves on the eve of Tet and adorned themselves with new foliage on the morning of New Year‘s Day. It was as though the trees were young women wearing new dresses in honor of Tet.
To ensure a happy new year, the local people picked fresh branches to decorate their thresholds. The time of picking varied from between the eve of Tet and the dawn on the first day of the New Year. But the most auspicious times was assuredly the stroke of midnight, for it marked the division between the two lunar years and the beginning of the leave's return. Picking a budding branch on the stroke of midnight on the night of Tet will ensure a happy New Year.
Why do people avoid sweeping their house with a broom for the first three days of the New Year?
A legend which no longer fits in win present-day requirements is the story of casting aside the broom during the first three days of the New Year. The story goes that in days gone by, a trader met a poorly dressed little girl while he was crossing Dongting Lake. Struck with pity, he adopted her. And from that day on had a amazing success in the most darling business deals.
But one Tet, the little girl broke a valuable vase. To escape a beating, she hid in the refuse heap at the back of the house. The trader, who had grown cruel as he became rich, searched through the rubbish heap with a big broom. The heap as then pushed to the edge of a pond, but the girl was not found. The trader soon became poor: he has swept the Goddess of Fortune out of his house.
Nowadays, hygiene prevail over folklore, but three are still old women in the trading streets of Ha Noi, who fear a warning from the Department of Health but who are even more afraid of brooms rest on the first day and sometimes even on the first three days of the year, just as they did in ancient time, when poets and writes had the gift of seeing divinities in human form walking on earth.
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