Happy Lunar New Year!

Well, welcome to the year of the Rooster. This is another holiday my family celebrates since I am Vietnamese. Countries like China and Vietnam follow the lunar calendar and the new year normally starts at the end of January, sometimes early February. 

This year, the first day of the New Year (called Tết in Vietnamese) celebration started on Saturday, January 28th. Normally, we celebrate two weeks straight and many take time off from work in the US to celebrate with their families.

I grew up with many traditions for the holiday from foods we always ate, games we always played, events we always attended and the best part, getting gifted lucky money!

This time of year, you see a lot of traditional outfits as well. In Vietnam, we call what both men and women wear áo dài or long dress. These are normally custom made in beautiful colors and designs.

Happy Lunar New Year! | Twin Cities Moms Blog{our friends celebrating their first New Years with their son}

Our house always had a big display of fresh fruit as an offering to the ancestors to make sure we had a good year.

Around this time of year, you see a lot of red envelopes with gold lettering or colorful pictures. You can find these at local oriental stores or now on Amazon.

I have to say, I think I was a pretty cute kid so I was lucky with how many envelopes I got! Not just from my family, but from members of the Vietnamese community at the New Year celebrations. Some who celebrate will put together a variety of envelopes with amounts ranging from 25 cents to a one hundred dollar bill to give to kids when they wished them a Happy New Year.

One of the most important things about New Year’s is to wish others, especially your elders a Happy New Year and for them to have another prosperous year. In Vietnamese you say, “Chúc mừng năm mới.” As kids, we would greet our elders with this greeting and there were many who would then pull out an array of envelopes for you to choose from. Getting to pick one brought me excitement and was always surprised at what was inside.

What is the importance of these red envelopes (or “bao lì xì” is what it is called in Vietnamese)? Many believe that these monetary gifts will bring good luck in having a prosperous year. I remember collecting these and saving it all up to give to my mom to get me a savings bond (my parents taught me well).

Growing up, every year we would attend the big New Year’s celebration put on by my church for the Vietnamese community. You have great food to choose from ranging from your egg rolls, a bowl of Pho or some special dishes like bánh trung (rice cake), which is specially made for the celebration time. Bánh trung is a rice cake filled with mainly pork and mung bean (other ingredients added dependent on the preference of the maker). The whole thing is then wrapped in banana leaves to steam until cooked through. We would get tons of these to add to our display of fresh fruit at home and we definitely ate this for breakfast, lunch and dinner sometimes. After the celebration is over, we normally freeze these cakes or will take slices and pan fry them as a snack (so good!).

Another popular event growing up that I remember is the pageant that is held. They normally had one for children and one for young adults where we wore the traditional Vietnamese dress (áo dài). For the young adults, they had to answer questions but for the kid pageant, all we had to do was walk around the stage and smile.

Happy Lunar New Year! | Twin Cities Moms Blog

I remember being entered by my grandma with my sister when I was in 2nd grade. It was an honor to be able to participate and I guess we were cute enough since I won and my sister won 2nd place! I still remember the smile on my grandma’s face and we have a fun banner she printed off that day as a memory of our day.

This time of year is nostalgic for me. So many good memories with my family growing up participating in the celebration and we always looked forward to our traditions of waking up, getting dressed in our Ao Dai, and waiting patiently for my dad to set up his camera and camcorder (he had all the professional lighting he would setup) and getting in line to wish my grandma a happy new year and getting our Li Xi (Lucky Money).

Happy Lunar New Year! | Twin Cities Moms Blog

The tradition lives on in our kids. We celebrate with my parents each year and we either eat a feast at home that my dad prepares or we go out to one of our favorite restaurants to have a big meal. Every family celebrates differently, but one of my favorite traditions is getting to see the dragon dance. There is a whole story behind the dance, and the people who perform it, I know, rehearse for many hours before the big celebration. There’s a little humor with the main character (who is normally wearing a big paper mache head who I think looks a little bit like Buddha) and holding a fan to direct the dragon throughout the whole performance. The main character leads the dragon to the front and the music gets louder and faster when the dragon is excited and the goal is to get the dragon to “eat” the red envelopes attached to a pole and eventually the main character is able to put the dragon to sleep.

This is the version I am used to in our Vietnamese celebrations, but I know there are other versions and ways that the dragon dance is done dependent on the group that performs it.

I think as our kids get older and start to understand more what these traditions are, it will be so much more fun as we start to build in our own traditions to celebrate each year.

Do you celebrate Lunar New Year? What are your traditions? 

2 Responses to Happy Lunar New Year!

  1. Mahlia February 4, 2017 at 8:18 AM #

    We also celebrate Tết! My father was a first generation immigrant from Vietnam, and now two of his sisters (and their families) have more recently moved to Minnesota. Lunar New Year is a great way for us to spend family time together and enjoy Vietnamese cuisine. The kids also look forward to the Li Xi!

    Thanks for sharing your traditions – your boys are adorable!

    Chúc mừng năm mới

    • Aimee
      Aimee February 4, 2017 at 9:36 AM #

      Thank you for sharing yours! Always so fun this time of year

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