The New Year Festival in Vietnam and in America Introduction Although different countries in the world have different festivals and holidays, there is a momentous event that annually they all eagerly long for. It is the New Year festival which marks the pivotal point of a new period of time with the pure and pristine beginning for individuals. However, each nation has its own traditions, customs and values partly reflected in the celebration of the New Year festival. The ways of holding the festival in Viet Nam and in America are of no exception.
The two countries belonging to two geographical locations and cultures share some certain similarities but mostly they show many obvious distinctions in the New Year celebration. Body The preparation for this event in Vietnam and in America is somewhat similar. Stores and supermarkets are so crowded with many people going to purchase necessaries for the holiday in advance. The most best-seller items in this shopping season are food, drinks and clothes. Vietnamese people also have to buy large amount of food for storing because of the considerable length of the holiday.
Moreover, in Viet Nam most of shops will be closed for some days in this occasion. People clean and decorate their home as well to welcome the New Year. Houses often wear a new coat of paint after being decorated. In addition, the New Year trees will be prepared in an attractive design. In America, Christmas trees covering with decorations and colored lights are kept until the New Year festival ends. This kind of ever – green trees are put in their home or outside. Similarly, a branch of peach flower or a kumquat decorated with greeting cards and good luck symbols cannot be absent in each Vietnamese family.
The two countries also resembles in their viewpoint on the New Year. They share the same opinion that this important time of transition offers optimism and hope. The New Year’s Day is a wonderful occasion for everybody to share their feelings and express best wishes to their families, relatives and friends. In America culture, the New Year is a time to look back to last year’s achievements and failure and to look forward to a promising new year. Likewise, Vietnamese people consider the New Year a chance to remember the mistakes and plan changes. Even though coming from different cultures, both Vietnamese and American consider New
Year a special time which holds great potentials for future brightness. They try to better their lives by making New Year resolutions which is generally a goal set out to accomplish in the coming year. American and Vietnamese have many New Year resolutions in common such as improving health, finance, career, education or self-improving. It proves that New Year’s Day is the most active-minded holiday in both countries, because it is the time for people to evaluate their lives and plan and resolve to take action. Despite the similarities, the celebration of the New Year festival in Vietnam and in America has sharp distinctions.
Basically, the time occurring this festival and the length of it are not planned to coincide. In general, the Vietnamese New Year festival starts later and lasts longer than the American one. The Vietnamese New Year is called ‘Tet’ (the abbreviation of Tet Nguyen Dan) which means the first morning of the first day of a new period. Tet is also the starting point of a new year on the lunar calendar normally occurring in the last ten days of January according to the western sun – based calendar. On the contrary, the American New Year is held on January 1st – the first day of a new year on the solar calendar.
Furthermore, while American take holiday only on one day– the New Year’s Day, Tet in Vietnam lasts for three days. In addition, Vietnamese people are often allowed to enjoy another four days off. In total, there is one week for people to take their holiday, making Tet the longest holiday of the year. The difference in the length of the New Year festival reflects the difference in the culture of each nation. In the past, at the time of the New Year festival, Vietnamese do not have to work on the farm because the harvesting crops have been finished already.
America, on the other hand, belongs to the industrial culture with rapid pace of life. Thus, they have less time to spend for the holiday With Vietnamese and American, the New Year festival gains different special significance. The Vietnamese New Year celebration is more complex and charged with more symbolic meanings than the American one. Vietnamese people strongly believe that the New Year demonstrates connections, renewals, thanksgivings and hopes. New Year traditions maintain linkages between people of living generations in the real world with the dead in the spiritual world.
The connections for every family at this time are not only the gathering of all the relatives living far from the hometown but also the reunions with the spirit of ancestors. This belief presents a part of Vietnamese national identity and exerts considerable influence on many Vietnamese people. They usually return to their family during Tet. Some visit the graves of their parents and grandparents, removing weeds and worshiping to invoke the souls of the dead to visit the family home. American, however, does not take the New Year festival as serious as Vietnamese people.
They regard this time as a public holiday bringing fireworks, parties, gifts and musical events and an occasion for family to hold special dinner. Another difference in celebrating the New Year festival lies on the activities people take part in as well. In Vietnam, people believe that Giao Thua (the passage from the old to the new year) is a very sacred moment when they can communicate with gods and their ancestors. They make an altar outside the house and the whole family will stand in front of the altar praying for the best things to come on the New Year. Special television programs are also broadcast live to entertain people.
Fireworks attracting most of the young are shot off in some public at the first moment of a new year. In America on New Year’s Eve, streets are full of young and elderly people dressing fashionably to welcome the New Year with great excitement. The most famous televised party is held in Time Square, New York City. There is a tradition to count down from ten to one – the final ten seconds of a year. At the end of the countdown, a light ball will drop from the tower. Then people together sing the traditional song “Auld lang side”. Fireworks are also the center of attention for parties.
People depending on the law of their state can buy fireworks and shoot off on their private property. If they are not allowed they will gather somewhere to watch firework show. The New Year’s Eve in America is totally a colorful and entertaining event. This occasion is celebrated with elegant, formal and social – oriented activities while in Vietnam, it is held with more home– oriented activities. While most of the activities associated with the end of the year are focused on New Year’s Eve, The New Year’s Day in America is treated as a day of recovery from an eventful New Year’s Eve for some people.
Others often get together at bar, clubs or their friend’s house for parties. In most towns and cities, parades are held and special football games are played. In Vietnam, they officially celebrate the New Year festival in three days with various activities different from those in America. There are a lot of customs practicing during Tet. Normally, on the first two days, people usually show their thankfulness for their parent’s upbringing. The third day is spent to thank their teacher for their attentive teaching or for meeting friends.
Besides, everyone can join in some cheerful competitions such as playing board games, wrestling, and bull – fighting. People, especially the elderly, usually choose to visit pagodas and temples to pray for peace, happiness and good luck. As the New Year festival approaches, people around the world including in Vietnam and America will plan to achieve the best possible start for the coming year. Each nation has their own traditions to prepare and eat special foods at this time, hoping to gain richness, love and great fortunes.
These kinds of food play an important role since they are supposed to bring people good luck for the whole year. Having Banh Chung (a square cake made with sticky rice, green beans and fatty pork) and Banh Day (a circular cake made with sticky rice) is a deep – rooted tradition of Vietnamese people when they prepare foods for Tet holiday. People following the Yin – Yang principle say that these foods represent the combination and the agreement between the Earth and the Sky. Tet jam is a snack used to welcome guests in this special period. Unlike Western jam which is usually liquid and served with bread, Vietnamese jam is mainly dry.
It is made from dried fruit and some kind of seeds (water – melon seeds or sunflower seeds). In America, black-eye peas are an example of luck-bringing food. People eating black – eye peas are expected to get financial riches. It is American custom to prepare a special cuisine made from rice which is popularly called Hoppin’ John. This special dish is consumed with black-eye peas. Cabbage is also a traditional ingredient used to cook in the New Year festival because cabbage leaves partly resemble the US banknotes in appearance and in color. Therefore, they are assumed to bring prosperity.
Pork is also considered a lucky food since pigs are associated with plumpness and getting plenty to eat. In term of New Year’s superstitions, both American and Vietnamese have their own set of rules to do or avoid doing something in the New Year. They all want to scares away evil spirits so that they can start the New Year free from these evils. But the ways they follow are not the same. While Vietnamese sprinkle lime powder around the house to expel evils, the Americans make a lot of noise when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve.
People blow on horns, cheer and set off fireworks to make as much noise as possible. It is thought that the evil spirits are afraid of noise. Therefore, they can send them away by making a lot of noise. Although today most people do not believe in the existence of evil spirits, the tradition to make noises at midnight is still remained. There are other amusing superstitions in the two countries. Almost all of them base on the idea that what people do at the very first moment of the year will set the pattern for the rest of the year.
That’s why Vietnamese and American people are careful about what they do on the New Year’s Day. They are not willing to lend money or pay off a loan on New Year’s Day for the reason that the money will run out of their pocket during the year. Breaking anything is also a bad omen. People also do not take anything out of their house, even trash on New Year’s Day in the fear of losing things for the rest of the year. Beside similarities, it is obvious that the Vietnamese New Year’s superstitions are richer and more complex than American one because with Vietnamese the festival has much spiritual meanings.
For instance, the conception of American and Vietnamese of welcoming a New Year is different. American simply think that they open the windows or doors to get the old year out and let the new year in while Vietnamese are more superstitious. They believe that the first person entering their house on New Year’s Eve will decide the good or bad fortune for the whole family in the year. The man invited to come first should be at the age suited to the age of the host. Moreover, he should also experience success and happiness in the last year to meet the requirements. Conclusion
In conclusion, the differences in celebrating the New Year festival between two countries outnumber the similarities. People in Viet Nam and in America follow the same way in the preparation process and hold the same opinion about the meaning of the festival as well. However, their own typical cultures lead to the differences in activities, food, and superstitions. It is often said that festivals and holidays are the mirror reflecting a nation’s cultural identity. Thus, all the traditions and customs in a festival are deserved to be respected, contributing to the cultural diversity in the world.