February, 06 2014 16:05:04

Traditional Vietnamese Tet celebrated in Lyon

Artists perform the lion dance at the Tet festival organized by the Cultural Association of Vietnamese people in Lyon.

By Vuong Bach Lien

With emotion in his voice, Nguyen Quoc Nghia sang his nostalgia for Viet Nam and his sadness at not being with his family on the occasion of Tet.

He was singing in front of about one hundred Vietnamese students who had gathered last weekend in Lyon in southeast France, to celebrate Tet.

The song Mua Xuan Dau Tien, meaning first spring, was the one he had written with another Vietnamese student living with him in Lyon to express their feelings about spending their first Tet away from home.

"I miss my mother very much and I feel lonely in this city, in particular during these days when in Vietnam everyone is in a hurry to return home to be with their families," confides Nghia.

The song, which has quickly become popular ever since it was launched on the Internet some days ago, touched the hearts of many students who attended the Tet festival organised by the Vietnamese Association of Students in Lyon.

A student writes calligraphy at the Tet meeting organized by the Association of Vietnamese Students in Lyon, France.

Every year, the association organises a Tet meeting for its members to offer them an opportunity to meet and share their nostalgia for their families when the Lunar New Year comes, said Vuong Thi Hoang Nga, president of the association.

Here, the students can enjoy traditional dishes and take part in music and dances performances.

The fine Tet custom of calligraphy is also preserved here by the young students. One of the highlights of the event was calligraphy writing by a couple of students in traditional costumes. Students surrounded them and asked them to write nice words in calligraphy with the hope of bringing good luck to their homes and to use them as decorations for the holidays.

Tet traditional flavours

Banh chung or chung cakes, the soul of the Vietnamese New Year, is probably the first thing that the Vietnamese people living abroad don't want to miss during Tet.

In Lyon, they can find all the ingredients needed to make chung cakes in the Asian supermarket, such as green beans, glutinous rice, pork and la dong or dong leaf. Even though the price is often ten times the cost in Vietnam, and the quality is not as good, it's makes many happy to find these ingredients.

A few days before Tet, Nghia joined some other Vietnamese students living in his university hostel in making chung cakes.

"I spent the whole night boiling chung cakes with friends. It was tiring but very joyful," says Nghia. "It brought back so many beautiful memories of my previous Tet with my family," says the 22-year-old student.

Chung cakes were also prepared by a group of Vietnamese and French members of the Cultural Association of Vietnamese people in Lyon.

Vietnamese and French members of the Cultural Association of Vietnamese people in Lyon make chung cakes. VNS Photos Vuong Bach Lien

Some of the 50 chung cakes that were prepared this time would be consumed by the families of the members who made them. And the rest will be sold to the Vietnamese people and foreigners living in Lyon, and the proceeds will go to the association's fund.

"These days I miss my family in Vietnam a lot," says Ngoc Anh Rolland, president of the association, with emotion in her soft voice.

Anh showed to others photos posted on Facebook of her family in Viet Nam making chung cakes. She was also in a hurry to post some photos of the group making chung cakes on Facebook to share with her family and friends back home and in other parts in the world.

Some French people in the group were making chung cakes for the first time. Florence Guarnieri had come with her husband, their son and Vietnamese daughter-in-law to make the cake for the first time.

"I am very interested in making the chung cake. I love being able to make Vietnamese cuisine, in particular, the chung cake which is the typical dish of Tet for the Vietnamese people," says the 62–year-old.

"I had the opportunity to eat chung cake for the first time last year and I liked it very much."

After making her first-ever chung cake, Guarnieri proudly asked others to take her picture with it.

Besides chung cakes, Vietnamese people living abroad don't want to miss the other traditional flavours of Tet too.

Rolland, who is married to a Frenchman, says the traditional meal on New Year's Eve has always been made for her family during the 20 years she has lived in France.

Other traditions like keeping the mam ngu qua or five-fruit tray on the ancestral altar and decorating homes with fresh flowers are also preserved.

"I am very happy that my children are also very interested in Tet customs. Whether we are Vietnamese or have Vietnamese origins, we should not forget our tradition," she says.— VNS

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