A Vietnamese Touch – Traditional New Year Celebration

Not so many people know that Vietnamese New Year is actually the same as the Chinese New Year because we use the same lunar calendar system which is based on cycles of the lunar phase. This new year begins on Monday 23rd January, which is the very first day of the new semester here at UCLan. How “fantastic” that is! I mean, come on, do you go to school on the first day of your new year? (Just to let you know, I didn’t skip the class :))

Anyway, as a Vietnamese, I would be very happy and proud to share with you our new year festival traditions and customs as well as how I have managed to celebrate a quite traditional Vietnamese new year festival here in Preston, UK 🙂

The Vietnamese Lunar New Year is called Tet /teit/ and this term is generally used in a lot of English texts. Unlike Western countries where Christmas is the biggest festival, Vietnamese people consider Tet as the most important event in year and it is the time for family gathering.

Food specialties & Flowers for Tet

Food goes first, of course. In Vietnam, a few dishes are specifically made for Tet. Traditionally, these include two kinds of traditional cakes which are Chưng cake / t∫u:η/ (a square cake made from sticky rice with bean and pork) and Dày cake (a round cake made from glutinous). They symbolize the earth and sky with their square and round shape, respectively. However, nowadays, Chưng cake and Tét cake /tet/ (these two are made from same ingredients; they just
come in different shapes) are getting more popular and Dày cake is becoming more of a daily food, rather than a food specialty for Tet. Usually, people in the North of Vietnam have Chưng cake in their meals during Tet while in the South, we prefer Tét cake.

Fried Tét cake served with pickles

Apart from those traditional cakes, some other Tet treats in the South of Vietnam include watermelon, sour-sop, fig, coconut, papaya and mango.

If it is a tradition for British people to have a Christmas tree indoor for Christmas, it is a tradition for Vietnamese to have a flowerpot to decorate their house and cheer the festive mood during Tet. Again, tastes differ from North to South, even for flowers! In North, the traditional flower is Đào flower /dau/, it is called peach blossom in English. This lovely pinkish flower is believed to bring about peace and happiness. In South, we prefer Mai flower /mai/. The yellow color of Mai flower is believed to cheer up the house and symbolizes luck for the new coming year.

This year’s Mai flower at my home ^^~

Traditional Tet in Preston

Well, that’s what I would have for a typical Tet in Vietnam. However, here in Preston, with other 4 Vietnamese students, we have celebrated Tet in our own way. As we couldn’t find any traditional kind of cake here, we decided to make another traditional cake which, however, is not a typical treat for Tet festival. Anyway, I present to you…

Xèo cake in Preston

This is called Xèo cake, or you can see it as a kind of Vietnamese pancake or crepe. It is made from flour, shrimp, pork, onion, spring onion and beansprout. The reason why I chose to make this kind of cake instead of other cake specialties was that its ingredients are super easy to find and it’s super easy to cook too.
And as for flowers, why not add a little red touch to your room for a lucky new year?

Cheers everyone. Happy new year 🙂