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Tet: Time For Tradition, Family, Introspection

Van Nguyen /


A lantern store in the Old Quarter of Hanoi


By Chi Le
Junior Reporter
Vietnam – What makes the Tet celebration so special?
It is a hard
question that I have turned over for quite some time. A friend once said that
there are a dozen occasions other than Tet that only happen once a year, so it
cannot be a valid reason for the specialness of Tet celebration. Maybe it is
the family reunion that could only be feasible on the occasion, or the classic decorations,
or simply just a restorative break from schoolwork.

No matter
what the answer could be, there is no single correct one. So, I’ve decided to
let my mind wander towards another direction.

I visited
the Temple of Literature with my mother yesterday. In case the name does not
ring a bell, it is a spiritual and historical site in Hanoi where Vietnamese
young people tend to visit to wish for great achievements in their work or study.
I could
recall the crystal clear vision of the little ‘me’ holding my mom’s hand at a
food stall by the pavement or at another filled with piles of intriguing books
as I walked past these places to head into the main hall of the temple.
Standing in front of the holy altar, I shut my eyes for a few minutes of inner
peace and self reflection. I cast my mind back on the ride I had been taken on
and wished for the best to come in future times; I thought of my family and
friends and how my decisions would not only affect myself but also meant
something to them.
To put it
frankly, it is above my knowledge whether my wishes would come true, yet the
moment brought me hope and equanimity. I wonder if this is the way other people
feel during such a tradition.
This year’s
holiday lasts from 10 to 11days, all of which I spent in the wonderful company
of my family members. My mom prepares the food and visits the relatives with my
dad; my grandparents welcome their guests; my brother and I play by the
computer or occasionally watch some nice movies shown on television. But
whatever we choose to do, Tet does not allow for solitude; it welcomes the
When I was
younger, I was occasionally in need for some time at Tet when I could watch
whichever television channel I preferred or listen to my favorite band at top
volume. ‘Freedom’, I suppose, was the word that I played back and forth in my
mind and regarded as a luxury I could hardly afford.
It took me
some time to finally admire Tet for its true value – an occasion during which time
for myself and time for my family is intricately interwoven. Sadly, when one
has not learned to appreciate its gift, it just becomes underrated.  
In the past,
I was a reclusive kid, only eager to enter social gatherings with my mom and
dad around. I was not the toughest kid or the most mischievous in a group of
youngsters making up pranks to play.
Most of my
Tets were spent at home, usually by the television or the computer. Only by the
time I turned 13 or 14 had I agreed to go to temples with my mom, for it was
common among most of my friends. Now I rush my mom to set out a schedule for
our trips. The sooner they are, the happier I am feeling, days before our trips
begin. I am learning to enjoy all the valuable experience that such a special
occasion offers and how I had constantly been, at a cost to myself, just wasting
At this
point, I have come across another question: What if this Tet celebration was my
last at home, and my next would be in a faraway country completely out of reach
to my family? Even if it is hypothetical, I should be able to answer it with a
firm belief that I should spend every minute of Tet with my loved ones and do
whatever we like to make the most of it.

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