|Production of bamboo kitchen items for Tet in Bao La bamboo weaving village in Hue. — VNS Photo Phuoc Buu
THUA THIEN – HUE —(VNS) As Tet approaches, traditional craft villages near the former imperial city of Hue are busy with production. Not only are they preserving Tet rituals, they're also bringing jobs to thousands of seasonal workers.
In Thanh Tien paper flower village, old artisan Pham Loan still makes paper flowers according to traditional style, sticking seven to nine flowers that resemble wild blossoms on a thin bamboo stick. He produced more than 2,000 flower sticks this year, triple the amount that he made last year.
The paper flowers decorate the altars of Hue residents, both kitchen altars and those used for Mau (Mother) rituals. New flowers replace the old ones every year.
A long time ago, people could not afford fresh flowers, so they used paper ones instead. In 2007, village resident Than Van Huy revived the traditional technique. He and about 10 families in the village produce around 5,000 flower sticks, giving the village a busy atmosphere.
According to researcher Ho Tan Phan, rural life was tough year-round and Tet was the only time for a holiday. "So everybody wants new items for the holiday as well as for the hope of a better life," he said.
Phan adds that Tet is important for the dead as well as the living. People believe that their dead loved ones return home during Tet, so the altars need new items and special food.
This drives the production of ritual items in the Sinh paper painting and Phuong Duc bronze casting villages. In Sinh village, about 50 families create wood-block prints in many colours.
Inside Ky Huu Phuoc's workshop, his wife and son are printing rusty paper sheets with plain glyphs printed by wooden blocks, meeting demand for 5,000 ritual paintings in various types from Hue locals and provinces in the central and south.
These new paintings will be stuck on altars of the chicken god and female god in almost every family to replace the old ones. Several papers will be burned as tradition requires. Seasonal demand is also on the rise for paintings designed for fishermen and hunters.
In Phuong Duc village, 10 kilns are baking the final batches of bronze items of this lunar year. The village casters produce mainly altar items, such as candle holders, incense holders, bronze disks for fruits and vases.
The ancestor altar is the most important section in every Vietnamese home and people all want it to look great during Tet. But according to Nguyen Van Son, a caster, demand has not increased much due to the impact of the economic downturn, which means consumers cannot afford to spend a lot on these products.
Many kinds of Tet candy and cakes that were once made by hand are now produced en masse. However, ginger jam is still made the old-fashioned way, giving jobs to hundreds of people in Kim Long village.
Served with tea, the sweet treat is a favourite Tet food for residents in central localities and several northern provinces, as it suits the cold weather during Tet.
According to the owner of Anh Nguyet, a ginger jam-making facility in the village, demand from other provinces is increasing year by year. She is making two tonnes of jam, double the quantity she made last year.
Another facility in the village, Ngoc Thao ginger jam, is producing five tonnes to meet increasing demand from northern provinces, triple last year's production.
Seasonal producers of banh chung (square sticky rice cakes) and banh tet (cylindral sticky rice cakes) are also busy meeting demand from local residents as well as Hue natives far from home. — VNS