As you grow older in an ethnic household, you unlock new things that you are allowed to do each year, like levels in a video game. For me and my family in Vietnam, I wasn’t allowed to go to the nighttime flower market with my mom until I was around 12 years old. It is something that she does in preparation for Tết, the biggest celebration of the year in our culture, and it meant a lot to me to be able to tag along.
Flowers are an important part of every Vietnamese spiritual celebration; they act as offerings to the Buddhas that we worship, show respect and remembrance to our ancestors and express wishes of prosperity, fertility or fortune. This means that around this time of year, the market is always packed with people and vendors, looking to buy bulks of flowers for a cheaper price.
As a kid, it is exciting when you get to stay up past your bedtime. As the market only opens after midnight to ensure the flowers’ freshness, it is one of the few nights of the year where I am allowed to pull an all-nighter.
I still remember how it felt to be there among the endless booths of flowers, to be squished against too many people. It is hot, humid and sweaty. It doesn’t sound like a very pleasant experience, but when you’re among hundreds of different types of flowers, soaking in the calm darkness of the night, feeling the anticipation for the Tết celebration to come, nothing else seems to matter.
The bustling market scene fades into the background, the scorching air thins out with the aroma of the flowers and time slows as everything moves with a calm and peaceful motion. The closest feeling I can compare it to is that of Christmas morning, when the excitement makes everything feel a bit magical and dreamy.
After I help my mom pick out all the flowers we need for the holidays, we bring it all home with my dad’s moped. I am squished between my mom and dad for the whole ride home,carefully clutching the flowers. When we make it home, my mom and I spend the whole night together making flower arrangements and displaying them around the house.
The tradition is something I hold dear to my heart, simply because of how, each year, I am able to spend time with my family and to bask in the feeling of peace that comes with it. As much as I love my life here in the United States, sometimes I can’t help but reminisce about those moments where time stops, the world goes silent and I get to enjoy freedom and relaxation without any stress or responsibility.