Family Traditions: Keeping Vietnamese traditions alive in America

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Photo courtesy of Lavang Vu

Vietnamese culture is full of exciting and vibrant celebrations. The most important celebration is Tết, or Vietnamese New Year. This is one of the main ways I am able to keep close ties with my heritage, since I was born in the United States. My parents fled from Communism in Vietnam in the late 1980s and were able to come to the United States after a very dangerous and harrowing journey. They built a life for themselves and supported  me and my sister while maintaining and passing on their Catholicism, language and traditions to us. 

Family is the most essential part of Vietnamese culture, so honoring your elders and ancestors is of the utmost importance. On the first day of New Year, my sister and I dress up and pray evening prayer with the family. Afterwards, we chúc Tết (wish happiness and good fortune) to our parents. After this, they give us lì xì, or lucky money. We also must chúc Tết to our grandparents, aunts and uncles. 

My favorite part of the New Year’s celebration is the hội chợ (festival). Every Vietnamese church celebrates with a  hội chợ. We have Mass at the church first, then head to the festival and celebrate there. These festivals have everything from traditional Vietnamese food to concerts and games. My favorite part of every hội chợ is the múa lân (lion dance). I always enjoy watching it and seeing them dance to the drums and doing all sorts of tricks. 

Probably the best part of the New Year celebration is the food . We have foods reserved specifically for New Years: bánh tét and bánh chưng. Bánh tét is a sticky rice cake filled with mung beans and pork, formed into a cylindrical shape, and wrapped in banana leaves. Bánh chưng is similar to bánh tét but it is a square instead. It is generally eaten with sugar sprinkled on top.

Tết is important to Vietnamese culture and I am very happy and proud to be able to celebrate it.

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