Minh Phương & Thu Hà
The traditional Tết holiday is the most special occasion for Vietnamese and it is no less special to those living abroad. Although they cannot go home for Tết, they always have a way to celebrate in foreign lands.
Hoàng Hải Hà, 41, has lived in England for 18 years. To her, Tết is a time to reminisce about the atmosphere in Việt Nam.
Hà said: “When Tết approaches, I always feel homesick. From the first time I celebrated Tết in England until now, for 18 years, my husband and I always feel nostalgic."
“What I remember most about Vietnamese Tết is New Year's Eve, on that day my mother always made xôi gấc (sticky rice with spiny gourd). She also told me and others to eat that dish on New Year’s Eve to have a year with lots of luck, success and happiness.
“Because my mother passed away that memory makes me very emotional whenever I think about it. And I miss Tết in my hometown, I miss my family and I miss my mother.”
Although living far from Việt Nam for quite a long time, she always tries to preserve the country’s traditional values. She also teaches her children about the traditional rituals so they can feel proud of their origins.
|Hà always teaches her children about the Vietnamese tradition so they can feel proud of their origins. Photo courtesy of Hoàng Hải Hà|
“My family still maintains all the customs as we have for the last 18 years,” Hà said.
“We always wrap bánh chưng (Chưng cake) on December 28 of the Lunar Calendar, and we worship the ancestors on December 30. And on the first day of the new year, I with my children usually go to the temple and wish for a lucky year ahead.
“Although my family lives here, the children were born and raised in England, but I always preserve and maintain the cultural traditions of Việt Nam,” Hà added.
“My children are also curious about traditions which makes me very happy because I have given my children an understanding of their roots so that later on, even when they grow up, they will always remember and maintain the customs of the country no matter where they live.”
Nguyễn Thị Minh Nguyệt, 37, has been living in Japan for 10 years. During 10 years, she only celebrated Tết twice in the homeland.
Nguyệt said: “Honestly, every year when Tết approaches, it is the time I cry in the year. I miss home very much."
“Because I can't be home for Tết, and can't share with my family about the hardships I've gone through during the years I've been here.
“Tết is often an occasion we can share with our family all difficulties we have had during the year while I cannot. That makes me often very sad during Tết.”
|Nguyệt, with her Japanese husband, always performs ritual offerings on Tết. Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Thị Minh Nguyệt|
Nguyệt met her destiny in Japan and now they have two children. Even though Nguyệt and her husband don’t share the same culture and sometimes are unable to celebrate Tết due to a busy schedule, her husband always joins with her to cook typical dishes to enjoy Tết.
She said: “After getting married, in the years when I couldn't return to Việt Nam to celebrate Tết, I still cooked traditional meals on New Year's Eve."
“I also told my husband that he is the home master so he should perform the ritual offerings with me even though he doesn't understand the language.
"I also have to go online to find out how to perform the rituals, and how to invite the ancestors to enjoy the year-end meals. My husband didn't understand so I translated to explain the culture to him.
“I can feel that my husband also loves and wants to preserve my culture, so there was a time when I was busy working, on the 30th day of the Lunar New Year, my husband sent me a message saying he would go shopping but didn’t know what to buy. If I need anything I can write it down so he can go and buy them. Then in the evening when I come back home, I prepare the meal.”
|Even far away, Nguyệt's family still cooks traditional meals on New Year's Eve. Photo courtesy of Nguyễn Thị Minh Nguyệt|
Despite being far away, Vietnamese communities in foreign lands manage to celebrate Tết in their way. Many events have been held for this special occasion.
“Recently, the Consulate General of Việt Nam in Fukuoka cooperated with the Vietnamese Association in Fukuoka and Fukuoka Province to organise a Tết programme. We have had a very successful event. Through that activity, my thoughts and feelings are also different from previous years.
“The day we held the Tết programme, we considered it to be Tết. On that day, I had a lot of fun and reminisced about the atmosphere of Tết in Việt Nam. It was so much fun and there were so many emotions that can't be described, but I was happy.”
Through there is a lack of many traditional specialities and the Tết atmosphere as it is in Việt Nam, Tết for overseas Vietnamese is still full of memories, warmth and love.
Hà said: “I live abroad like many other overseas Vietnamese. Even though life is very hard, the love for my motherland or my Vietnamese origins are always in my mind and that will never fade.
“Therefore, I hope that our Vietnamese communities in foreign lands will together maintain and preserve our Vietnamese cultural values.
“Each person will always keep Tết in their hearts because Tết presents the homeland. Tết presents the family.” VNS