For some days now, it has been warmer and sunny again after such a cold weather prolonged during most of the time of the recent Lunar New Year holiday. As today, 10th of the 1st lunar month, is the first official school-day again for my son Tuan, he has been absent almost all the day. And my husband Thang, a dynamic businessman, has also got busy again with his appointments with his friends and some new partners. So I have been left at home alone with so valuable silence for writing this article.
Though being a housewife now who can be free in daily time control, I am still trying to set up and maintain for myself a relatively flexible weekly working-schedule so that I can never get too lazy and can be active enough. Therefore, today, as the offices have opened again and everyone has come back to work, I also want to resume working as a blogger.
Indeed, some days ago, I saw on TV and got very keen on an interview with Ms Nguyen Thi Thu Hue – a Vietnamese well-known writer of novels, short stories and films – who I had learnt and admired since my young age. I am deeply impressed by her comment that as a writer one should note down immediately his or her feelings, emotions or moods as soon as they come, or otherwise they could quickly fall into oblivion without memory. With a fresh feeling of Spring, I am recalling some pleasant memories I have just experienced during the recent Lunar New Year holidays.
From the past until now, Thang and me have agreed that Tet (Lunar New Year holiday) is special but not too special for us because we prefer having fun everyday (though little) to having too much fun only for some short days of Tet. Based on this directive spirit, we are never finical in preparing for our Tet as well as other festivals in a year. However, like all other Vietnamese families, we also began our Tet activities on 23rd day of Thang Chap (12th lunar month of the previous year – the Year of Ox), which was the Kitchen God’s Day. According to Vietnamese viewpoint from long time ago, the Kitchen God (Ong Tao in Vietnamese) lives in a family’s kitchen, records all what that family has done in a year and reports to the King of Heaven. Though already simplified, our worship ceremony for Kitchen Gods still included adequately scented joss-sticks, candles, flowers, fruits, joss-paper things, and most typically, two men’s hats, one woman’s hat and one carp. As the legend said, the carp should carry these 3 Kitchen Gods (2 men and 1 woman) to pass through the Heaven Gate (Vu Mon) to come to see the King of Heaven.
On the same day, I also began feeling more clearly the colors and fragrance of Spring when my house was decorated with fresh flowers. Only some red roses together with some branches of violet in a new ceramic vase brought to our living-room a new look, much fresher and more romantic.
For some following days, from 24th to 26th, I became happier for receiving many New Year wishes by email from my old friends and colleagues, who live in various regions of the world: Malaysia, Australia, United States...and Vietnam too. I always appreciate their warm greetings and sincere comments as good encouragement for me to try better in life. More particularly, I had a high spirit when Robert, a new friend online, who is an US designer presently living and working in China, posted on his own blog my New Year wishes for him with beautiful images of Vietnamese spring flowers. My special attention to this news came from the fact that last year Robert had become one of my first fans and friends on blogspot.com and often followed my posts with quite friendly and encouraging comments. Though this seemed a bit moody and child-like, I felt glad to have appeared to the readers with the title ”Thanh Nga – a very special person” on a professional designer’s website, I felt much encouraged for continuing writing my stories in English.
On the 28th of Tet, my little Tuan began his 10-day vacation for Tet. As a chief cook of our small family, Thang quickly finished his shopping duty for some necessary food items. His task was really much lighter because more than a week earlier, I had already bought all our proposed Tet presents for my father, my mother-in-law, and some other relatives (this was mainly to avoid the peak prices at Tet). Thang looked really cheerful when his own daughter Phuong (Tuan’s half-sister) and her husband An came to visit us with their Tet present (incl. Banh Chung and meat pies from Nam Dinh, his home town).
On the 29th day of Tet, both I and Tuan were responsible to tidy up our home and excited to decorate it with new fresh flowers. I arranged ten scarlet gladioli evenly in a white vase, added some small branches of violets for more color tones.
And then, I arranged in another black-and-red vase all violets in a free style, letting them look as natural as possible.
All the flowers were so fresh and beautiful to brighten our living space. More specially, this Tet we also had a small yellow apricot bonsai presented by a friend who came from Ho Chi Minh city. So we combined the colors from the North and South of Vietnam in our home.I put on some light music for a more joyful atmosphere, feeling it sweeter than usual.
I was smiling happily when seeing Tuan actively helping me and sometimes dancing some wrestling jerks while saying in both Vietnamese and English,“Chuc Mung Nam Moi ! Happy New Year ! Happy Tet!”.
In the afternoon of 29th of Tet, in a calm mood, I took Tuan to see my father aged 80, who lives in the neighboring house, and lighted joss-sticks to my Mother’s treasured memory. Similarly as every previous year, this Tet, I prepared carefully for my Dad a special present including some Ensure Gold powder milk (I thought most suitable and useful for his health) together with some lucky money. He looked quite happy and satisfied to have received my present and heard me telling about our business good success during last year. I wished him my warmest wishes for good health and happiness for the New Year of Tiger. My father also wished me for better health and better spirit for taking care of my own family, especially my son.
In the morning of 30th of Tet, my small family started leaving for my mother-in-law’s house in Gia Lam district in the suburb of Hanoi. Along our way from the centre of Hanoi to Ngoc Thuy district (in Gia Lam), we felt really peaceful and comfortable for the quiet streets with so few people, which scene could not be found in ordinary working days. On arriving in Gia Lam, after greeting my mother-in-law and other relatives in our internal family, we went to visit my father-in-law’s grave near the village. Such a visit to our ancestors’ graves by Thang as the oldest son in his family and Tuan as the first grandson is not only an obligation but also considered a very important deed at the end of a lunar year. It was a nice surprise and touching to both Thang and me when Tuan said, “I still remember last year I carried the photo of Grandfather in his funeral”. According to Vietnamese tradition, only the first grandson has the honor to carry his internal grandfather's photo in the lead of the funeral march. It seemed Tuan was partly aware of his important role.
At midday, we joined and enjoyed a family lunch party as the final meeting in a year with presence of almost all our internal family members. I also had for my mother-in-law a special Tet present being a nice-looking package of a dozen cans of Red Ginseng water from Korea. I myself had tried this product for some weeks and found my mind less tired in those days of changing weather. I presented her this special drink with best wishes for good health at her precious high age of 85.
In the afternoon, back home again, we had a final shower of the year. Then we were all well dressed to get ready for welcoming the New Year’s Eve to come in a few hours. For myself, I enjoyed very much a TV show on Hanoi’s 36 old streets with its special traditional features on Tet holidays: for example, Hanoi people’s eating customs on Tet with Banh Chung (glutinous rice cakes) and many special dishes, paintings on Hanoi streets, Hanoi’s peach and other flowers in Spring, and so on. This partly made me miss my Mother – a real Hanoian of the past.
My spirit seemed younger when the young newly-married couple Tuan and Hong, our grandcousins, came to us. I have found a common voice with them possibly for they are learning English in London (the language I have been familiar to for many years), and for they studied in China - the country I love to see in my near future.
Without sophisticated dishes, my small family gathered merrily in our New Year’s Eve simple dinner. We all became more fun and cheery while watching the comedy with its title “Meeting at the End of the Year”. That was about the final meeting between all the leaders (ministers) with the King of Heavens. Among the ministers’ reports on the Vietnam’s economic situation and all the fields of its society, I liked best the recommendation by the Minister of Transport to the King of Heaven that we should have Tet holidays more often so that our Hanoi streets could be much less crowded and there could be no traffic jam any more.
The weather got colder and began drizzling at the watch-night, a typical weather for Tet in Hanoi. When it was approaching nearly 12 pm, we went out to the entrance gate of Lenin park near our home where we could join many other people in watching beautiful fireworks in the sky to welcome the first moment of Lunar New Year. At that moment, each of us had our own emotions and feelings, but all of us were surely quite happy. Tuan was happier as we got for him a balloon of Doremon’s image. That was the character in the pictured stories which he was passionate in reading.
Thang being a man of Cat's year considered matching for this year of Tiger, we decided for him to first-foot our home very early on the 1st day of Lunar New Year. After that, we had our first lunch with my father. Though with only 2 dishes being boiled chicken and chicken vermicelli, our small party was very cheerful. My father and Thang had some whisky of Red Label while I and Tuan had some red wine. We all raised our glasses in a merry spirit, warmly wishing each other for good health, good luck, good success, prosperity and happiness in the Lunar New Year of Tiger with hopefully stronger power. Tuan was also self-confident enough to say: “Cheers!” to all the adults, especially to his external grandfather. Furthermore, my father also expressed his New Year wishes to Tuan by offering him some lucky money. In response, Thang also presented my father some lucky money.
This Tet was also special for the 1st day of Lunar New Year was also Valentine’s Day. For myself, although my husband seemed not to know about this special occasion (likely because he followed only Eastern customs), I still had a pleasant mood as having received some wishes from my friends in some European countries, especially from Germany – the nation I admire greatly for its modern architectural works and open interior styles.
In the morning of the 2nd day, Tuan was enthusiastic to set pen to paper for the first time in the New Year. He chose an essay on our family written in English for this important work. Next, we warmly welcame my nephew Duong. I was glad to hear him encourage me that my health would be better soon. He told me some examples of crippled people who had overcome all troubles and won themselves. Moved by his naive thinking and sincere comments, I smiled friendly and thanked him truly. Then I wished him to be more grown up as getting 16 this year, more matured, become a real man soon, and also study better in the New Year with the power of Tiger.
I must say that the weather during the recent Tet holidays were changing strangely and unfavorably for going out. After some very hot days before Tet, from the New Year's Eve until the 6th day, the cold was increasing day by day. That was the reason why on the 2nd and 3rd days, while my husband and son were visiting our relatives and friends around Hanoi, I had to stay home alone for keeping my newly-recovered health good. Luckily, I could not be bored because my friends and me could still exchange our New Year wishes by mobile, phone or email. Besides, there were many interesting shows on TV on Vietnamese traditional-trade villages for me to watch. Among these, I liked best the contest show between 2 villages in Thanh Tri district (in the suburb of Hanoi city) on making steamed rolled rice pancakes being their traditional local speciality. It was not important to be the winner but more important to maintain such traditional cultural features of Hanoi.
From the 4th onward, delighted with so much lucky money received during Tet, Tuan was willing and eager to restart his lessons on English. I was also very willing to practice speaking English with him and guide him to complete revising all the new words and model sentences he had learnt recently.
This evening of 10th, after the first official school-day of the Lunar New Year, Tuan came home happily with some more Lucky Money from his teacher and one mark 10 on maths. So he got first signs of good luck as good start for him for the whole New Year.
Now, I am completing this first post of the New Year of Tiger, I would like to write down and share with all of you, dear friends, my happy feelings and fresh inspiration of new Spring as a good start for my on-going flow of energy in writing English posts all over this year. I trust blogging is a good way to share my thoughts with other people and sometimes with myself, at the same time, to train me better in English writing skills. And another important point is that I do not have to kill time but am taking full use of my time.
Once again, Happy Lunar New Year !!!