Final days of the year (according to the lunar calendar)!

Almost 12 years, but it never ceases to amaze me of how strange these days are. While I’m here in the UK, terribly busy with deadlines and things of the everyday life, my parents and friends in Vietnam are busily and excitedly preparing for a Lunar New Year celebration – our “Tet”.

There’re tons of work to do: Cleaning the whole house, making some decorations, buying some lucky trees (peach, yellow apricot, kumquat tree, etc.). And cooking. There’s an awful lot of cooking. I remember how astonishing it was when I saw my mom sweating profusely in the middle of the cold winter in Hanoi, just because of the amount of cooking she had to do for our traditional Tet's meal. From that time, I started to learn how to cook, in order to support her, and that’s when I realized how a woman can be truly a superhero in the kitchen. If you don’t believe me, just have a look at this photo – an example of a common meal in our Tet festival, and you will have a sense of how much time and effort must be put into the making of it:

Some of the main dishes are: the very famous Chung cake, spring rolls, lean pork paste, jellied meat, dried bamboo shoot soup, etc.

But, what surprises me most is, whenever we have approached the end of the traditional year, people talk much about the sophisticated changes of the whole … universe – a sense of newness, the sprouting season where all the tree buds swelling under the spring drizzles - changes that seem to bring a little life spirit into everyone’s soul. They say that you can feel it in the surrounding environment, and it just gives everyone a thrill.

When I was young, I thought it was true. Indeed, I did have a different feeling when driving my motorbike under the spring drizzle, or when I went out to buy a lucky tree branch in the first hours of the Lunar New Year, merging into a big crowd of people going out for the special night of the year, usually with colourful fireworks and music celebration in the city centre.

However, no matter how hard I try, I never could feel it here in the UK. It’s spring time, yes, and the trees start waking up with all their buds swell beautifully and energetically. But it has never affected my spirit, my soul inside.

In some sense, it makes me understand more about the word tradition. It seems to suggest that only when you celebrate a tradition with all people around you, when it’s a collective power of feeling, talking, and sharing things together, that you can recognize how strong and influent it is. Because it can touch even the deepest part of your soul!

And that's when you realize: how happy it is, to be a part of a community!

P.s. Happy year of Dragon, everyone!