Viet Nam News
Hương Hoa Vân
HÀ NỘI — Lệ Mật Communal House as Tết (the Lunar New Year) nears.
Hundreds of people flock to the main yard to witness a solemn ceremony to erect the cây nêu (a tall bamboo pole).
The bamboo pole was stripped of its leaves, except for a tuft at the top. Bows, arrows, bells, gongs and other leaves to ward off evil spirits were hung on the tree with the hope that the bad luck of the previous year will be chased away and everyone has a happy New Year.
American Eric Ardman, a researcher from the Hà Nội Medical University, buttons up his Vietnamese long dress.
He asks a friend to help fix his head scarf.
“I feel comfortable in this traditional long dress for Vietnamese men,” he told Việt Nam News. “Especially for this weather. I like it a lot.”
Ardman said he had learned a lot on that day and the day before.
“I learn a lot about traditional áo dài, different customs, and ceremonies during Tết [Lunar New Year].
“I’m really excited to take part in the event and I’m feeling very happy.”
“There is a big population of Vietnamese in the US, but not many people celebrate the Lunar New Year. Here I see everyone prepare for the new year for a week. The atmosphere is great.”
Ardman is one of dozens of international students who are participating in the Tết Việt (Vietnamese Lunar New Year) event hosted by Đình Làng Việt (Vietnamese Communal House Group) together with hundreds of the group’s Vietnamese members.
They are taken on a tour round Hà Nội’s Old Quarter to historical relic sites and the traditional flower market on Hàng Lược Street, which opens only for Tết.
Then they join the ceremony to release carps for the Kitchen Gods at Lệ Mật Communal House and watch people make bánh chưng (sticky square cake), ancient paintings like Kim Hoàng and Hàng Trống as well as watching folk music performances.
“This is the first time I have taken part in various customs for the traditional Tết in Việt Nam,” Akram Imad Abu Fayyeh from Palestine said. He has studied Vietnamese at Hà Nội National University for three months now.
“I think I’m so lucky and happy here to see the culture. Vietnamese people have a lot of beautiful customs during Tết.
“I like the tradition of making bánh chưng. I’m so excited to join the process as well.
“Here people have a habit of giving lucky money to children, which is the same as one of our festivals.”
Held every year, the event is the third of its kind hosted by the Đình Làng Việt group.
“The Tết holiday includes most traditional customs of Vietnamese people, especially at the Communal House,” said Nguyễn Đức Bình, an art critic and head of the group.
“That’s why we have tried to host it for three year now aiming to maintain our good customs.”
“This year, we also co-ordinated with the Hà Nội National University to invite foreign students to experience a traditional Tết in Việt Nam.”
Bình said the principle for organising Tết Việt is that the group chooses the ancient traditional customs which blend well with modern times.
“This year, we haven’t asked for fixed financial contributions from participants,” he said, “We just ask for donations according to people’s willingness to avoid people from thinking that we are commercialising the event.” — VNS