Spring is a season of hope. It is a time for everyone to review old things and look forward to new ones. In an historian’s eyes, receiving new things is heritability.
What do you think of the traditional Lunar New Year festival (Tet). Two historians – Dinh Xuan Lam and Duong Trung Quoc think about Tet in the past and at present and about the past year and expectations for the New Year.
Professor Dinh Xuan Lam: remember Tet’s Eve when listening to President Ho Chi Minh’s greetings.
Professor Dinh Xuan Lam
Tet is time to end an old year and enter a New Year with expectations for good things. This is also the time for family members to reunite no matter how far they work from home. During the past wars, I studied far away from home, but I tried to return home at any cost despite a great difficulty in traveling, because I would be very sad if I had to enjoy Tet far away from my home. I also spent Tet abroad several times, such as in 1982 when I taught in France and another time with my son in Hungary. Although Vietnamese people held several activities to welcome Tet abroad it was not a real Tet atmosphere.
When I was small, Tet was a festival. My family prepared to welcome Tet a month in advance. My mother went to the fair several times to buy essential things for Tet and made many kinds of jams. We decorated the house by repainting and cleaning. All these things made people happy to look forward to Tet.
On Tet’s Eve, my ancestors’ altar was lighted with lamps and incenses. My father guided me to pray because I was the first-born child. I was really moved when hearing the pagoda’s bells and drums to give a signal for the turning point between the old and new year. On the morning of the first day, I wrote my first words of the year because my father was a Confucian scholar. As from the second day of the year I could go out to enjoy singing or play folk games.
I remembered the time when I taught in Thanh Hoa province. When Tet came groups of girls gathered and sang together.
It was also a time for relaxing, visiting friends and relatives and wishing the best things to each other. In 1954 my wife and I took my children to visit Hanoi’s relics and pagodas, like Bach Thao and Van Mieu. On Tet’s Eve, I often bought flowers to decorate my home.
When President Ho Chi Minh was still alive, everyone liked to hear his Tet poem. A lot of people gathered around Hoan Kiem Lake to look forward to the New Year. In cold weather, southern people wearing thick cotton walked around the lake to meet their fellow-countrymen. I will never forget such moments of the old days.
Today, besides fine traditional customs, Tet is also affected by market life and many things do not match the fine tradition. Young people now do not fully understand the significance of Tet because they think that it is a time to consume and enjoy.
On New Year’s day, I wish my passed-away parents would help and support my children and grandchildren in their lives.
Historian Duong Trung Quoc: Tet is a good chance to keep alive family customs and practices
Historian Duong Trung Quoc
Tet is a time to consolidate the relations of the family and homeland and to keep the family tradition. Cleaning and decorating the ancestral graves and altars, preparing a meal to offer the ancestors, and visiting relatives and pagodas is a good way to maintain family customs.
Tet has changed a lot over the years. In the past, Vietnamese people often attached much importance to hometown so Tet took place within villages. Today, people go everywhere. Workers who work away from home are not used to modern management methods so industrial zones seriously lack labour force after Tet.
Many issues arose, requiring people to both preserve traditional culture and adapt to modern life. However, changes must not be negative. I remember that professor Tu Giau proposed celebrating Tet every three years to concentrate on production, because people usually had a full month enjoying Tet. His initiative was opposed strongly, demonstrating that breaking a custom is not easy. The most important thing is to keep family traditions. Managers must know how to grasp the modern life’s needs to adapt themselves to the historical values of Tet.
During Tet, our generation is often looking toward to the old lifestyle, family, hometown and distant relatives while the younger generation is different, as they consider Tet a chance to relax, meet friends and go on holiday. The young generation enjoys a boat leaving port while our generation likes a boat looking a port to make a landfall.
Spring is a season of hope. It is a time to look back on old things and welcome new things.
2011 will see many important events, laying a firm foundation for the country to develop steadily. Besides the best wishes for my family and relatives, I really hope that the State and Government leaders will change their thinking and have a high sense of responsibility to bring the people to the shore of happiness and prosperity.