Ever wondered what it would be like to live in the year 4074? Wonder no more because it is just around the corner.
With a calendar based on the phases of the moon, opposed to the sun, Sunday, Jan. 29, the Vietnamese and Chinese will be celebrating the next lunar year, ringing in 4074. Sunday will also mark the first day of the year of the dog.
Many Asian cultures take the lunar calendar very seriously. Pho Pham, a sophomore biology major, does not celebrate her birthday on Jan. 29 every year, but this year she will celebrate.
“I was born on the Vietnamese new year,” she said, “and I just follow that calendar. So I celebrate my birthday and Tet on the same day.” Tet is the Vietnamese word for ‘New Year.’
To prepare for the new year, it takes days, even weeks, for families to clean their homes and themselves.
“You shower to wash off the bad luck and sins of the previous year,” said sophomore biology major Phuc Hoang. “You clean the house to throw away evil. [The purpose] is to start off the new year fresh.”
Hoang also said that the homes are dressed in red and gold (or yellow) decoration. They represent all that is good and prosperous.
“But black must be avoided,” said Julie Ngo, a freshman accounting major. “It’s bad luck.”
Other families decorate their homes differently.
“My mother places candy and a gigantic watermelon on our dining table,” Pham said.
On New Year’s Eve there is a big, important dinner.
“[It’s] the gathering of families to feed and embrace each other in wealth,” said sophomore John Yong.
“The Buddhist offer their food to the gods and ancestors,” Hoang said. “They thank them for the previous year and ask for a lucky new year.”
At the stroke of midnight, the loud joyous sounds of firecrackers seem endless.
Shortly thereafter, the children in the family, including everyone who is not married, say a few words to their parents and elders, thanking them for all they have done for them and wishing them the best for the new year. In return they receive little red envelopes filled with money.
“The kids are suppose to say ‘Thank you. I wish you good health and the best of the new year,'” said Ngo, who is half Chinese and Vietnamese. “In Cantonese, the red envelopes are called ‘li xi,’ but some people call them ‘hong bao.'” Vietnamese also use the term li xi.
“In Vietnam [and China] New Year’s is celebrated for two weeks,” Hoang said. “You don’t go to work. You just celebrate.”
Within those 14 days of celebration, there is an exchange of gifts and good words between friends. It also means more red envelopes for the little ones.
Many people, like Pham, attend church.
“My church annually holds a festival,” Yong said. “The guys get dressed up as girls and do the traditional moon dance. I don’t do it. I just watch.”
In this changing world the Chinese and Vietnamese New Year has lost much of its significance.
“It’s not that important today,” Pham said, “because our lives are so busy. There aren’t many traditional things.”
“My family is Americanized,” Ngo said. “My role [for New Year’s] is just to receive li xi.”
China and Vietnam ban firecrackers on the holiday for safety reasons.
Before it dies out, take the opportunity to join in the celebration.
Most Asians and non Asians, like Eric Maile, like to hit Chinatown.
“I have Dim Sum with my friends and see the dragon dance,” he said.
“I love the fireworks. It’s great, because you have these little ones, but then the top one goes boom!”
Happy New Year! Or as they say in Chinese, “Kung Hei Fat Choy” and in Vietnamese “Chuc Mung Nam Moi.”
Anne Ha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.