With one eye open and one still in a dream, I was suddenly awakened by my alarm. It was still in the middle of the night, but since my exams are coming closer, I decided to take a quick nap first, and have my left-over sleep once I finish my study. In the quietness of the night, I couldn’t help but feel lonely and a bit homesick. Especially with Tet’s holiday (or widely known as Lunar New Year) coming around, I could imagine the festive atmosphere sneaking its way through the mildly cold weather of Hanoi, and the onslaught of people hustling in the streets as if I was there.
You realize Tet is sounding gentle warnings when the drizzling rain comes more often, when naked branches of winter trees shyly unfurl new buds despite the coldness that seems to stiffen everyone’s movements. Amidst the hustle and bustle of vehicles converging on the main streets, smoke leaks from the engines, somehow warming up the atmosphere. Around this time of the year, traffic is more congested than usual, since the streets are packed with people leaving major cities like Hanoi, and heading back home to their countryside after a hardworking year. Roaming through different turns of the alleys, it is very easy to notice a plethora of Tet’s gift items are displayed inside the retail stores and decorated with eye-catching packages in red and gold, luring you to come and visit. They vary from Mut Tet (which usually refers to sugar-preserved fruits), wine bottles, candy bars to greeting cards, fruit baskets, and so on. With people’s high demands of buying gifts for the holiday, Tet’s season would usually be the pinnacle of many retail stores and supermarkets’ trading year. Taking your sights off from those colorful, aesthetically pleasing decorations and products and heading back to the main streets, you will see rows of peach blossoms and kumquats lined up haphazardly across the pavements. Once in a while, the florists water them, pruning them with great care to make sure they look luxuriant when the buyers come. I still remember the time I went to buy peach blossoms with my family.
Squeezing all four members on a motorcycle, dad would ride us through every corner of the street, just to find the perfect peach blossoms to decorate our home. That memory, until now, has still remained as one of my most unforgettable childhood moments.
Contrary to the daily hustle and bustle of Hanoi, one day before Tet, all that’s left are some scattering motorcycle movements and a handful of people traipsing through the cold, trying to finish up their work and going home. Inside the house, family members gather around to have the last dinner before the new year, altogether watch Year-End Met (a Vietnamese satirical comedy show), and wait for the moment of New Year’s Eve to come. The last day before Tet, therefore, comes like a saving grace. It has the power to ease one’s soul, heal the conflicts among people, and bring them together. What happened in the past few minutes, hours, even months, or years of anger and grudges still condenses into the feelings of forgiveness and joy, once the magic of New Year’s Eve comes.
Even though I can’t be with my family this Lunar New Year, the fact that I can still spend this holiday with my friends in the Netherlands is heartwarming and soothing enough.
Lastly, as 2021 is coming to an end, I wish you good health and much success in 2022. And again, Happy Lunar New Year!
Author: Quynh Trang Le
Editor: Phoebe Elliot
Visuals by: Mara Förster