So this month I’ve made a new “end-of-year” resolution. Because you can never have enough resolutions, can you? They’re there so you can break them, and then make new ones. That’s the whole point, is it not?! Anyhow, so mine is: this year I’m going to embrace all seasonal celebrations, I’m going to get right into the swing of it: Christmas, New Year, Tết (Lunar New Year). Yep, ALL of them.
Because I noticed the other day that sadly, I’ve somehow lost all that festive mood, somewhere along the last 11 years in Australia. Christmas? Blah. New Year? Meh. Tết? Yawn. That’s not yet to mention all the commercially driven days like Valentine’s, Mother’s, Father’s, you know, all that brouhaha that I simply canNOT get excited about. Maybe I’m just trying to be “different” (oh of course!), but seriously, I can’t see the point in celebrating something just because everyone else is doing it. Whatever happened to individuality, originality, personality, etc-etc-ity?!
Anyway, back to festive seasons. Let’s start with 11 years ago. In Vietnam, apart from a small group of Christians, Christmas Eve is more or less just another big night out for the young and the restless, another excuse to get stuck in that awful traffic, inhale motobike exhaust, and check out what wacky fashion other girls, AND guys, have come up with. (I mean, how can you resist pointing your scooter’s headlight directly at that girl’s back, who’s wearing an embarassingly sheer and tacky black shirt?) The same thing happens on Valentine’s Day, Women’s Day, Teacher’s Day, or days when the Vietnamese national soccer team is competing against whoever. Christmas isn’t an official celebration there so you still go to work, sit for exams, etc.
Then comes New Year. Pretty much the same thing too. The only difference is you get a day off. And I think there’s fireworks. To me it’s just another day.
Then there is Tết. It’s my favourite celebration. To me it’s the only true Vietnamese thing, the real “family” time. All the frantic preparation: spine-breaking house cleaning, greeting card sending, bánh chưng giving. There’s stocking up on artery-blocking, sinfully delicious food, getting new money for lì xì (red envelopes), buying new clothes. Then BAM!, come New Year’s Day and you do NOTHING but visiting families and friends and eating until your stomach hurts. Oh, and if you’re in my family, you’d be playing cards with your cousins and laughing so much all your teeth fall out. You’d also be chewing on watermelon seeds until your tongue turns a nice deep red and you can’t find the floor anymore because of that inch-thick layer of husks.
When I came to Melbourne I kind of learned to love Christmas for a little while. You know, adaptation, assimilation, and all that jazz. But then it just fizzled out.
New Year’s Eve is only fun if you like being squashed and elbowed half to death in a huge crowd waiting for the lame 15 minutes of fireworks. Which I kinda feel like I’m to old for. Now the whole period is just a good chance to take time off and travel, or simply rest and rewind. So in the last two years I was in China, then the US, throughout the whole silly season.
That leaves only Tết to get excited about. But in the years when I can’t go back to VN for it, it just passed without me even noticing. In Melbourne there are lots of celebration scattered around in the Asian areas, fire crackers, lion dance, festivals, etc. But we still have to go to work, and our family is not here, so really, what’s the point?
ANYWAY. Time to sum it up. The point is, this year you’re gonna see me sending out Christmas cards, although I’m a little behind schedule at the moment. New Year’s Eve we’ll be celebrating in Adelaide, mid way through out BIG road trip. And Tết? Ah, I can’t wait! We’re going to do the whole kit and caboodle — going to temples, lighting incense, cooking Tết food, cracking watermelon seeds, giving out and pestering for lì xì. Basically, EVERYTHING. And of course, catching up with friends, playing cards and laughing until our jaws ache.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? 🙂 After all, life is what you choose to make it. Bring on the PAR-TAYYY!
(Tune of the day: Songbird ~ Eva Cassidy)