Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tet: Time For Tradition, Family, Introspection

Van Nguyen / youthjournalism.org

A lantern store in the Old Quarter of Hanoi

By Chi Le
Junior Reporter
HANOI, Vietnam – What makes the Tet celebration so special?
It is a hard question that I have turned over for quite some time. A friend once said that there are a dozen occasions other than Tet that only happen once a year, so it cannot be a valid reason for the specialness of Tet celebration. Maybe it is the family reunion that could only be feasible on the occasion, or the classic decorations, or simply just a restorative break from schoolwork.
No matter what the answer could be, there is no single correct one. So, I’ve decided to let my mind wander towards another direction.
I visited the Temple of Literature with my mother yesterday. In case the name does not ring a bell, it is a spiritual and historical site in Hanoi where Vietnamese young people tend to visit to wish for great achievements in their work or study.
I could recall the crystal clear vision of the little ‘me’ holding my mom’s hand at a food stall by the pavement or at another filled with piles of intriguing books as I walked past these places to head into the main hall of the temple. Standing in front of the holy altar, I shut my eyes for a few minutes of inner peace and self reflection. I cast my mind back on the ride I had been taken on and wished for the best to come in future times; I thought of my family and friends and how my decisions would not only affect myself but also meant something to them.
To put it frankly, it is above my knowledge whether my wishes would come true, yet the moment brought me hope and equanimity. I wonder if this is the way other people feel during such a tradition.
This year’s holiday lasts from 10 to 11days, all of which I spent in the wonderful company of my family members. My mom prepares the food and visits the relatives with my dad; my grandparents welcome their guests; my brother and I play by the computer or occasionally watch some nice movies shown on television. But whatever we choose to do, Tet does not allow for solitude; it welcomes the opposite.
When I was younger, I was occasionally in need for some time at Tet when I could watch whichever television channel I preferred or listen to my favorite band at top volume. ‘Freedom’, I suppose, was the word that I played back and forth in my mind and regarded as a luxury I could hardly afford.
It took me some time to finally admire Tet for its true value – an occasion during which time for myself and time for my family is intricately interwoven. Sadly, when one has not learned to appreciate its gift, it just becomes underrated.  
In the past, I was a reclusive kid, only eager to enter social gatherings with my mom and dad around. I was not the toughest kid or the most mischievous in a group of youngsters making up pranks to play.
Most of my Tets were spent at home, usually by the television or the computer. Only by the time I turned 13 or 14 had I agreed to go to temples with my mom, for it was common among most of my friends. Now I rush my mom to set out a schedule for our trips. The sooner they are, the happier I am feeling, days before our trips begin. I am learning to enjoy all the valuable experience that such a special occasion offers and how I had constantly been, at a cost to myself, just wasting it.
At this point, I have come across another question: What if this Tet celebration was my last at home, and my next would be in a faraway country completely out of reach to my family? Even if it is hypothetical, I should be able to answer it with a firm belief that I should spend every minute of Tet with my loved ones and do whatever we like to make the most of it.

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