Chúc mừng năm mới!
This is how my husband’s Vietnamese family wishes each other a happy Lunar New Year. For the Asian community, this is an important cultural celebration. In our Vietnamese family, we call this day Tết and will celebrate it on February 10th.
You may already be familiar with the Chinese zodiac animals. (Vietnamese culture also has a very similar set of animals!) You may even know which one you are according to your birth year. Each of the twelve animal has its own specific set of traits and qualities, similar to how western culture views astrology signs and horoscopes. Yours truly is a horse, while my three sons are a rooster, a pig, and an ox (or a water buffalo in the Vietnamese zodiac) respectively. But my husband is a dragon, and so this is his year!
Because the zodiac repeats itself every 12 years, people who fall under the dragon sign were born in the years 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, and 2012. (You can subtract 12 from 1952 and keep going to find earlier dragon birth years!) The dragon is considered an extremely popular and lucky zodiac animal, with those born within the year displaying qualities of excellence, power, and respect. But even if you aren’t a dragon yourself, you can still celebrate the new year!
Here are some fun ways to engage your children with this cultural celebration:
- Make dragon crafts! A quick search on Pinterest will show a plethora of dragon crafts to do with your child. One of the easiest is to print the outline of a dragon head for your child to color, then tape it to a popsicle stick and cut out the eyes. Now you have a dragon mask!
- Watch dragon or lion dance videos on YouTube. A quick search will show some very cool videos of this traditional dance. (Tip: if the costume only has four legs, that’s a lion dance! Dragons have more people wearing the costume, so multiple legs.)
- Special New Year messages: Write a special new year message in white crayon on a white piece of paper. Wish your child the traditional greeting of luck, happiness, and good health. Then give your child red watercolor to paint over the entire page to reveal the secret message! (Any color will work, but red is considered a lucky color for the new year.)
- Visit a local Asian market for traditional New Year’s foods. Check out Dong Khanh Oriental Market, Hong Kong Food Market, or Kien Giang Market on the West Bank; Viet My Supermarket or Minh Canh Market in New Orleans East; or Golden City Asian Market in Metairie.
- Gift your children with lì xì. This is lucky money in red envelopes- you can buy these envelopes from an Asian store, or make your own! Our family gifts children with lucky $2 bills, but any amount is a special gift.
Our family will celebrate by visiting my husband’s parents. My boys will wear traditional ao dais, which are like long tunics over white pants. We will bring my in-laws a gift of fruit for the home altar and wish them Chúc mừng năm mới! They will wish us a happy new year in return and gift us with our annual lì xì.
We will further celebrate at Mary Queen of Vietnam’s Tet festival from February 16-18. EVERYONE is invited to this fantastic fair. Not only are there bounce houses, train rides, and carnival-style games for the kids, but there is an overwhelming amount of delicious, traditional Vietnamese food to enjoy! Mark your calendars and come on out to enjoy the fun!