Viet Nam News
by Khoa Thư
There is no event in our country that does not involve flowers, and it is fitting that the biggest festival of them all sees some stupendous floral shows, the most prominent of them being the transformation of Nguyễn Huệ Street in HCM City for the Tết (Lunar New Year) Holiday.
Hundreds of thousands of people, locals and foreigners, are drawn to the street during the festival days to gawk at and bask in the fragrance, colours and creative arrangements of millions of flowers. It is a great way to welcome a New Year.
But this sunshine event ends under a cloud, local reports say. They say that after the closing ceremony of the famous Flower Street, a peaceful scene is replaced by a chaotic one as hundreds of people rush to grab flower pots to take home.
At 10pm on February 19, the Nguyễn Huệ Flower Street was officially closed and exhibits were dismantled. While valuable plants, apricot blossoms and orchids for example, were taken to farms, their “common cousins” are usually discarded, many of them still fresh. Understandable, one would say. Why not nurture the beauties that give such joy? The problem is that those who want to save the flower pots that are still intact have to “trespass” and “rob” them, attracting the involvement of security forces.
“It is a violation to the flower street’s regulations that people ask for or take away flower pots. Our responsibility is to collect and treat the discharged flowers,” said Nguyễn Hữu Thiên, head of the security force.
While the security forces saw the crowd as being obstructive, the social media went further, once these actions were recorded and posted, expressing anger and disappointment in their criticism. Worries were expressed in several quarters that this robbery would happen next year, too. Given that such “robbery” has happened after every flower street closing ceremony, it is evident that the criticisms have not had much impact.
Perhaps it is time to look beyond the chaos. Can we then appreciate the people wanting to recycle the flowers by painstakingly choosing undamaged pots with fresh blossoms to take home? By standing around trash bins, they can be seen as showing a commitment to replant and take care of those flowers, can’t they?
“The Nguyễn Huệ Flower Street has become an indispensable part of Tết. However, when the exhibition ends, tonnes of flowers are thrown directly into trash bins. Many people ask to bring them home. Some workers oblige, others don’t. The authorities and organisation board should be more flexible in addressing the issue,” said one resident, Quang Huy.
Surely we have a situation here that goes beyond who’s wrong and who’s right, and for people to join hands to do what’s right. As a predominantly Buddhist nation, surely we can appreciate the virtues of a middle path.
It is a Tết custom to present children with red envelopes containing freshly-minted banknotes along with best wishes for good health and achievements. I have an idea. The organisation board of Nguyễn Huệ Flower Street can follow this traditional custom by setting aside flower pots to present visitors after the event’s closing ceremony as New Year gifts, first come, first served. This is not something new.
“I live in Canada. Every year, at the beginning of Autumn, authorities plant tulips. When the flowers fade by the end of Spring, they plant new batches. At that time, many people ask for the tulip bulbs, and the gardening staff then carefully wrap the bulbs up and give it,” said Hoàng Nguyễn, a Vietnamese expat.
Another plan worth considering is extending the Flower Street. Many migrant workers who get back to the city after the long holiday feel sorry that they could not enjoy the flower street. Huỳnh Vĩnh Sơn from the Mekong Delta province of Trà Vinh captured last pictures of the 2018 Flower Street with regret.
The theme for this year’s Flower Street was Khát vọng vươn cao (Aspiration for a Bright Future), portraying HCM City as a modern, dynamic and fast-growing city with a 300-year history and tradition, according to Trần Hùng Việt, general director of Saigon Tourist and head of Nguyễn Huệ Flower Street’s organisation board.
If the pots that are typically discarded are taken to different homes, the event’s value would be further enhanced, I think. And the flowers will bloom in every corner of the city, not just on Nguyễn Huệ Street, and not just for a few days for Tết.
As someone (could have been Mark Twain) famously remarked, “Happiness is the art of making a bouquet of those flowers within reach.” Let’s spread that reach a bit further. – VNS