For those who didn’t remember* we are quickly approaching the cultural event of the year in Vietnam.
The Vietnamese New Year celebrations, known as Tet Nguyen Dan and understandably abbreviated to simply Tet, begin on the first day of the first month of the Lunar Calendar and can be expected to contine for a few days. The date shifts around somewhat from year to year due to the difference between the Gregorian and Lunar Calendar, but invariably settles down between January and February.
With charactereristic Vietnamese pragmatism this coincides with the seasonal agricultural cycle, traditionally offering a well earned rest between harvesting and planting successive rice crops.
Anyway, all the above can be quickly picked up from any half good guide book so I will just make two quick points.
One is that in preparing this post and consdering the cultural importance of Tet, I can see parallels with the themes of forgiveness, generousity and social reunification that is characteristic of the Islamic festivals of Ramadan and Idil Fitri. In the West that function is increasingly expected of Christmas (at the same time that Christmas seems less and less reliable in achieving that ambition), and both Tet and Ramadan in Southeast Asia seem much more authentic and successful.
The other is the reference I picked up in the newspaper story here that I intended to use to illustrate the associated fireworks displays. I found it curious and revealing that Vietnamese authorities were keen to emphasise that the fireworks were not funded by public money. Perhaps it is a pointer to the Vietnamese authorities’ inclination to rest the pillars of Vietnamese national unity on the more politically loaded commemorative events that follow later in the year.
Happy, as always, for readers’ thoughts on this.
* which nearly included me!