By Lisa Le. This article originally appeared on SEARAC’s blog.
The season of Tết, the Vietnamese New Year, is my favorite time of the year. For me, Tết encapsulates not only the weeks of preparation leading up to the days (or even weeks!) of celebration, it embraces the traditions, food, and history of my culture, cultivating the significance of family, home, and community.
Growing up in the city of San José, Grand Century Mall of Little Saigon is a hub of nostalgia. I am filled with excitement each February as I accompany my mom on our annual tradition of picking out red and yellow lì xì envelopes, shopping for bánh chưng and bánh tét rice cakes, and browsing through the colorful assortment of festive flowers to decorate our home. Grand Century Mall, and nearly every other Vietnamese supermarket, is buzzing with children and their families during this time. You are likely to hear the popping of firecrackers, the sounds of Tết music, and the occasional lion dance performances if you are lucky enough to witness one!
It is exhilarating during the month leading up to Tết as I engage with my community to prepare for this season of hope and new beginnings. My core memories of Tết also stem from the celebrations that take place in the household with loved ones. This is the prime occasion for my extended family to all gather as one and uplift our love and appreciation of one another. On the day of Tết, I prepare my New Year’s wishes to relatives that come along with gifting and receiving lì xì envelopes. “Tiền vô như nước” (money flows in like water) is notably my favorite wish to receive! Our Tết festivities end with the traditional bầu cua cá cọp game to put our luck to the test.
Now as a college student based in Los Angeles, I am especially reminded during AANHPI Heritage Month of Tết and how it shapes my idea of home. While I have not been surrounded by family these past few Februarys, I immerse myself in the plethora of cultural events around me. As I reminisce the memories of celebrating Tết with loved ones and nostalgic foods back in San José, I recognize that home can be found in the wonderful people I surround myself with on campus as we uplift one another through shared experiences.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.