One of my favorite holidays of the year growing up, Tết is the celebration of the Vietnamese New Year and marks one of the most important holidays of the year. Our house would be festooned with all manner of red and yellow decorations for good luck and there would be the trip to Chinatown to watch the firecrackers and the beautiful dragon dances. Of course, the MOST anticipated moment for any child, myself included, was the presentation of the little red envelopes, li xi, which contained luck and money. Even now, thinking about it brings a smile to my face!
For all intensive purposes, Tết is practically synonymous with the Chinese New Year, and honestly, it’s hard to keep them distinguished from one another. They’re celebrated on the same day and there are plenty of overlapping traditions. Regardless, one key thing remains the same…it’s a time for family and friends to get together to celebrate and rejoice in the upcoming new year with food, drink, and laughter.
As I grew older, I learned that one of the most important traditions that occurs on Tết is the meal on New Year’s Eve that is made as a tribute to our ancestors. I remember the house being filled with all manner of hustle and bustle and my mother, myself, and my siblings moved around the kitchen preparing a veritable feast. All manner of traditional and exotic dishes are placed on the altar with care and artfulness and then fragrant incense is lit to invite the spirits home to partake.
This year proved to be no different. Bright and early Saturday morning, I found myself at Mom’s again helping her prepare all manners of wonderful and interesting dishes. Unfortunately, I had a lapse in memory (yes…it is entirely possibly that senility has begun, but I’m going to chalk it up to being sidetracked!) and forgot to snap pictures of the preparations until the last dish was being prepared. But while this is mostly just finished product, I hope that you will see the varied, beautiful, and interesting food and traditions of this wonderful holiday and invite you to go and check it out for yourself if given a chance!