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Jan 21, 2021 / 09:37

Precious book about traditional Vietnamese Tet

Tet Vietnam Xua (Ancient Vietnamese Lunar New Year Festival) provides readers an overview about Tet holiday in Vietnam some decades ago.

As a compilation of the great articles on Indochina Magazine, Tet Vietnam Xua (Ancient Vietnamese Lunar New Year Festival) provides readers a Tet panorama of how Vietnamese people prepare Tet through describing typical rituals, customs, and hobbies.

Tet Vietnam Xua is a collection of writings by many scholars such as Nguyen Van Vinh, Pham Quynh, Tran Van Giap, Paul Boudet, Jean Marquet, Georges Pisier, Nguyen Tien Lang, Manh Quynh, among other authors.

The book is a specious sauce for researches about Vietnamese Tet holiday. 

These precious documents have been compiled by Associate Professor Nguyen Manh Hung from Institute of Vietnamese Studies for many years. With nearly 200 pages, the book is divided into three parts: Tet rituals, Tet customs and Tet hobbies, including 50 funny and lively illustration pictures about Tet. 

The book starts with an in-depth research by scholar Nguyen Van Huyen, bringing a lively and interesting overview of Vietnamese Lunar New Year, the most important and largest festival of Vietnamese people.

Tet is time for people to bid farewell to the old year and prepare to welcome the new one with traditional rituals and customs in a hope for the best things, which is lively narrated by the scholar and in detail.

Hanoians buy flowers for Tet at Flower Market in Hang Luoc street, the photo is taken in Spring, 1955. Photo collector: Pham Ngoc Minh. 

He believes that as being so deep rooted in the national culture, the traditional Tet always lives in the heart of every Vietnamese, despite the industrialization, urbanization and technological development of the modern time with a lot of change in the social customs and mindset.

Talking about Tet rituals, the author Pham Quynh described the tradition of ancestor worship of Vietnamese people, popular ritual ceremonies and festivals during the occasion; the lunar calendar of Vietnamese people and the people’s psychology in Tet. Some rituals which had ceased to exist and have recently been revived today.

For example, in the Spring Welcome Festival in Hue Central City, people make offerings to the gods of agriculture and pray for their protection of the land and their blessing for a good harvest; or the Sacrifice to the Heaven and Earth ritual, also in Hue, was depicted in detail by French researcher Paul Boudet.

Tet retreat: A family in Hanoi get together for a Tet meal. Photo collector: Pham Ngoc Minh. 

Meanwhile, Tet customs is the most interesting part of the book as it compiled writings of foreign writers, travelers, French and other international scholars, such as Letter of the Lunar New Year's Eve and Tet in the Village through the perspective of French writer Jean Marquet; Tet through the eyes of an An Nam person; Tet in the stories told by European tourists and missionaries (in the 17th and 18th centuries) or Tet from the perspective of historian Georges Pisier.

Living and working for many years in Indochina, Jean Marquet impressively started his article: “How sweet it is to see before the big parties, the drinks, the cockfights and other games, people convey to each other best wishes that will spread to families during the Tet holidays in the peaceful Southeast country,” before continuing to tell the story of how Minh, one of the main characters, and the people around him prepared to welcome the New Year and enjoy the celebration.

In the part of Tet hobbies, it shows the hobbies that people usually do in Tet such as displaying Daffodil and calligraphy, buying and displaying Tet folk paintings and so on.

Dong Ho folk paintings were on sale during days perior to Tet holidays in Hanoi.

Speaking about the book, Dr. Tran Doan Lam, editor-in-chief of The World Publishing House, said: "The book is a collection of articles by foreign and Vietnamese authors on the ancient celebrations of Tet, offering new and different perspectives, based on the comparison between Vietnamese culture and that of other countries”.

“We have a lot of publications about Tet but not always have precious sources like this one. It is not voluminous, only around 200 pages but includes valuable information, suitable for both common readers and researchers about Tet,” Mr. Lam added.

Associate Professor Dr. Nguyen Manh Hung, Director of the Institute of Vietnamese Studies, also said “The book is worth reading to see how the Westerners see our “specialties” and admire our traditional Lunar New Year Festival.”