Large extended family sitting in three tiered rows. 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 These traditions have largely died out in Scotland, superseded by a more generally social and commercial format.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. Hien sitting on a mat with ingredients all around him. The Vietnamese equivalent of Christmas pudding is Bánh chưng - Festival cake - which is made in... The cake is made on banana leaves. ...the weeks before Tết. The ingredients are gathered and mixed onto sections of banana leaf, topped off with meat. And topped out with pieces of meat. These parcels are then folded into neat blocks, a pile of three can be seen front left waiting to be cooked Jeep with kumquat and bicycle strapped on the back. 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 Go to another page. Group standing round while trees are being loaded into the Jeep. Not all households are content with diminutive kumquats. Jeep with large tree rising out of it. Large cherry trees need transport for the festival Looking over packed street of motorcylists. Shopping gets hectic in Tĩnh Gia just before Tết Kumquat tree covered in fruit, roots in plastic on pavement. A kumquat awaiting sale Plum tree in pot and full flower. Plum tree blossoming on cue Tree branches with neon lights around them in modern living area. And here a more modern take, very old branches festooned with LEDs Three generation family group sitting around mat with light meal waiting. 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 One generation around mat with meal underway. And this Tết meal has a more horizontal family: three brothers and their wives, (plus three of their children) Two families on raised dais . Here the bond is friendship. The meal is taken on a splendid mealtime dais - a compromise between mat and table A mat meal with more food. This group of friends are meeting at Tết to keep up with school friends from 20 years previously A mat meal with glasses raised. And here another friend's house where the drinking is beginning to become more important to the proceedings Four men, a woman and two children grouped around a motorbike. 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 Eight adults plus children cram benches beside a table, display cabinet behind. Three men sit in separate seats by table. 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.
A family arranges itself at the front door for an orderly photograph. A group of friends want a front door photograph, but not quite so orderly. Han, Duyen and children in front of a tree in the reception room. 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 Bao-Tran struggling a little to lift her two year old brother. 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 Loi, wife and two children on front door step. 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 Duyen's and family with her parents in their garden. Then out to visit Duyên's mother and father Four friends, Bao-Trun and flowers. And finishing up with friends in the evening Mother and infant by cake with candle. An age bridge: an infant's
exciting first Tết...
Two older men playing Chinese Chess on a mat. ...while Han's father and friend, with too many Tếts to be worth counting, quietly retire to a game of Chinese Chess Three women and two children leaving on their motorbike. At some point, after the jollifications, homeward - maybe with a souvenir balloon Trailers... The completed house in 2010. The next page introduces the house that Hân built for his family. Couple sitting by lake. The next page of the Mosaic Section is headed 'I Love You'.
Or go to the contents of the Mosaic Section.
Saturday 13th February 2021 Murphy on duty ...guide to this site

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