Families gather at Tết and the extended family is still the norm so that the above photograph is not untypical. On this occasion we had brought a cousin to this family, a young man that they had not met before, so a formal photograph was required. The honoured guest, in red, sits just behind the patriarch. Great celebrations; and we left him there where he stayed for some days with his new family. But there is a sad ending to the story as he died later that year in a motorcycle accident - the fate of many thousand riders every year in Vietnam Tết, or more fully Tết Nguyên Đán, is the festival of the first morning of the first day. It is the great Vietnamese holiday, rather like Christmas and New Year rolled into one, it too can last for 10 days. The date of the New Year celebration, like the Chinese one, is calculated as being on the first new moon after the 21st January - although the two nations calculations sometimes diverge. The lead up, which is ever more frantic, was introduced on the last page. Special foods are made, trees are brought in and decorated, houses are cleaned to within an inch of their lives... ...and new clothes and gifts flow freely. Traditionally, as in Scotland, it was an affair for family and neighbours. An effort is always made to return home, however far away the person now lives. The days of the holiday are spent eating together and visiting neighbours. These traditions have largely died out in Scotland, superseded by a more generally social and commercial format. And similarly in Vietnam, where greater wealth, mobility, and diverging tastes are steadily eroding the old simplicity. But in 'our' village, the location of many of these photos, tradition hangs on. The Vietnamese equivalent of Christmas pudding is Bánh chưng - Festival cake - which is made in... ...the weeks before Tết. The ingredients are gathered and mixed onto sections of banana leaf, topped off with meat. These parcels are then folded into neat blocks, a pile of three can be seen front left waiting to be cooked Our Jeep taking a kumquat tree (and a bicycle) out to the village ready for Tết. They are sold by the hundreds (trees that is) along the roadsides as shown on the last page Not all households are content with diminutive kumquats. Large cherry trees need transport for the festival Shopping gets hectic in Tĩnh Gia just before Tết A kumquat awaiting sale Plum tree blossoming on cue And here a more modern take, very old branches festooned with LEDs Family meals come first, here a small Tết meal for three generations: father, mother, son, wife, two grandchildren and a cousin. On the 'table' is one of the Bánh chưngs seen being made at the top of the page - unwrapped from its banana covering And this Tết meal has a more horizontal family: three brothers and their wives, (plus three of their children) Here the bond is friendship. The meal is taken on a splendid mealtime dais - a compromise between mat and table This group of friends are meeting at Tết to keep up with school friends from 20 years previously And here another friend's house where the drinking is beginning to become more important to the proceedings Into the afternoon and parties continue. Everyone is getting happier. The distinction between kith and kin blurs here in Vietnam; these men are cousins, Hân (right) has 47 such, so within a village most people turn out to have some sort of family connection. The young one standing at the back is centre of attention in this page's leading photograph Two key locations for families at Tết are shown in these pictures. The top two show the reception table and display cabinet with altar above. This is usually directly in front of the main access to the house, and benches (left) or chairs (right) provide seating for guests. On the table there awaits water and tea, the bucket is for slops from the latter. Piles of biscuits and cakes can be seen on the altar, and a kumquat has squeezed itself
into the gentlemen's company.
The lower two photos show a social ritual in Vietnamese DNA - assembling on the front steps for photographs. Here two Tết groups wish to be recorded. On the left with sober decorum; and to the right with a certain relaxed enthusiasm.
But families are central. Above, Tết in 2020 with Hân, Duyên, Bảo Sách, Bảo Trân, Bảo Phúc and the photographer in our house in Tĩnh Gia
The two youngest members changed into their special festival clothes to go out visiting. The two year old only just supported by the eight year old
And here, in the house nine years ago, Lợi with wife and (then) two children. Quang's itchy leg delightfully caught in a screwed up nose
Then out to visit Duyên's mother and father
And finishing up with friends in the evening
An age bridge: an infant's
exciting first Tết...
...while Han's father and friend, with too many Tếts to be worth counting, quietly retire to a game of Chinese Chess
At some point, after the jollifications, homeward - maybe with a souvenir balloon
The next page
introduces the house that Hân built for his family.
The next page
of the Mosaic Section is headed 'I Love You'.
Or go to the
of the Mosaic Section.