HUNG NGUYEN MANH1
… be continued for section 2:
Ceremonies at Other people’s houses
The Vietnamese not only worship their ancestors but also pay their respect to other people’s ancestors. Hence the custom of going for Tết rituals. This is not only to say greetings but to pay their respect. Children and grandchildren have to pay their respect to the family head. Relatives, neighbours and friends pay their respect to one another. Benefactors are paid respect by beneficiaries, physicians by patients, teachers by students, village elder by village councillors, as well as between themselves.
“Minor mandarins have to send presents to superior mandarins who thus receive quite a lot. Usually, these give a part of which to their friends, soldiers, helpers for everybody to partake of the benefit. Not all mandarins are obliged to send presents to the King and the lord.”
“Presents to elders are mostly foodstuffs: rice, pig, hen, duck, arecanut, sugar, fruit, cake, jam… Soldiers would gather and send presents to their immediate chief following a solemn rite: first walks the company head (commanding from two to six boats, each boat includes from 30 to 60 soldiers) then soldiers carrying rice, pig (newly killed). The chief sitting in the centre of the house looks majestic. The soldiers kowtow three times. The chief accepts the presents and calls his attendant to take them away, then gives his soldiers presents corresponding to their own.”
The presents by the King and the Lord to the mandarins are a uniform – robe with dragon drawing, dyed red. The present is brought to the mandarins by soldiers with a parasol over it – not to protect it from rain but to show respect for it12.
Arriving at a house, the visitor has to be lively. He would kowtow four times and bow three times before the altar, then says his greetings. After that, the host would invite his guest to chew betel or drink tea, then to drink alcohol, eat meal and cake. The visitor has to be courteous: he would take a little alcohol, tobacco – if he declines to eat meal and cake – or would have a bite of jam, water-melon seeds. Everybody shuns from big feasts in the three days of Tết.
Sending off One’s ancestors
People choose either the middle of the courtyard or a clean corner of a wellswept garden to burn joss paper offerings. At certain places, people burn the joss paper offerings in a very complicated manner requiring the presence of a ritual officiant before starting to burn. The ritual officiant carries out various rites and when the joss papers burn glowingly, the officiant shout aloud a few times, seeming to prove that he had gotten in touch with the spirits; all this is aimed at creating a strong impression with regard to the family head.
The occasion of the third day of Tết
WE BEG TO RESPECTFULLY ANNOUNCE:
To our paternal family: Our ancestors, greatgreat grandfather, great-grandfather, grandfather, father.
To our maternal family: Our ancestors, greatgreat grandmother, greatgrandmother, grandmother, mother.
BEFORE YOUR TABLETS, WE BEG TO RESPECTFULLY INFORM YOU THAT:
We’re on the third Tết day, also at the beginning of the Spring, we sincerely present you with offerings such as fruits and flowers, betel and alcohol, as well as all other required items, hoping that you’ll enjoy them and bless our whole family, young as well as old people, with much health and peace.
We respectfully request our paternal and maternal ancestors, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters to enjoy the offerings.
We also respectfully invite our Genius of the Hearth and our Kitchen God to join our ancestors in the enjoyment.
WITH OUR RESPECTS
Grave visiting early in Spring
The accompanying picture does not depict a peasant carrying a spade to the field but to his ancestor’s graves to replenish them with earth and remove weeds. Besides, he brings along incense and votive paper money to burn.
This is the custom of grave visiting early in spring. In many places in the countryside this custom is not enforced before Tết but is done after burning votive paper money ¾ usually on the fourth day of the first month like in Thị Cầu, Bắc Ninh province.
Water-melon seeds on Tết Days
“When crunching water-melon seeds on Tết days, you’re certainly using a peculiar product of Bình Thuận, a land that yearly furnishes enough seeds to meet the requirements inland, as well as abroad, regarding the black and red water-melon seeds “people crunch to amuse themselves”13.
Yellow plum-flower and red watermelon are for Vietnamese families special elements that cannot be omitted on the occasion of the return of the spring. A Tết time without yellow plum-flower would be a meaningless one, while it would be flavourless, if the water-melons happen to be absent. Items such as water-melon seeds, fat meat, pickled onions, and puff pastry are considered as nationnal dishes on the occasion of the lunar New Year Festival. Who among us could ever forget the fragrant place of water-melon seeds we used for inviting our guests to crunch on the three Tết days while talking about the spring’s return. In such a cosy environment people also use water-melon seeds to make inner stuffing of cakes that can be used as a courteous and refine gift on our national holidays.
The water-melon is a product of Bình Thuận province, and is a type of plant that does well in all kinds of alluvial deposits, mixed with sand, cool and crumbly. Regional farmers used to plant water-melon at places such as sandy areas, jungle areas, or cleared lands, and once every three years, when the land turns infertile, people have to move to another location to plant again. According to the experiences of farmers living on this spot, each year one can plant only two crops: the main crop is from the 3rd to the 6th lunar month and the auxiliary crop is from the 9th to the 12th lunar month. At first, in January one starts to prepared a cleared land (reserved for planting water-melon) so that in February, one can dig holes to hold the planted seeds. . .
There exist two types of watermelon seeds – the one roasted and dyed red and the one boiled and dyed black. The roasted ones must be soaked in a water tank to get rid of all sand, earth, and the layer of sap, before decanting the heavy seeds and drying to the sun for the last time during 5 hours, prior to roasting them. To roast one places a large cauldron on a heated stove, pours the water-melon seeds in, mixes them with big chopsticks, take them out when they turn yellowish and let them cool down. While roasting if one pours peanut oil on the seeds, they’ll have a pleasant glossy look. In case one wishes to dye them red, one’ll have to pour red dye on the seeds then roast them for a second time. But, this time, one only has to mix the dye with the seeds and cook with a small fire to permit the dye to drench the seeds. To obtain the black water-melon seed, one must wash it clean, dry it, then pour it into a big cauldron, containing salted water mixed with ferrous sulphate (bought at herbal medicine shop), then cook it with a small fire; when the water is boiled, one has to reduce the fire, awaiting for 15 minutes for the seeds to be done to a turn, take them out and dry them to the sun, and they’ll become black water-melon seeds. Water-melon planters in the Bình Thuận province let us know that it takes the water-melon 45 days to bloom, 70 days to ripen, and 90 days to turn old and eatable.
1 Associate Professor HUNG NGUYEN MANH, Doctor of Phylosophy in History.
4 According to HOÀNG THẾ MỸ – ĐỖ HOÀNG DUYÊN – Invocations on Tết days and on the occasions of Tết and death anniversaries.
12 MARINI – New and curious stories… (description of Tết at Lord Trịnh’s office). Ibid, pp 245, 246.
13 According to LÊ HỮU LỄ – Science review – Spring Đinh Sửu (year of the buffalo) 1997 – Pages 54, 55.
BAN TU THU
◊ Source: Vietnamese Lunar New Year – Major Festival – Asso. Prof. HUNG NGUYEN MANH, Doctor of Phylosophy in History.
◊ Bold text and sepia images has been set by Ban Tu Thu – thanhdiavietnamhoc.com
◊ From Sketches in early 20th century to traditional rituals and festival.
◊ Signification of the term “Tết”
◊ Lunar New Year Festival
◊ Concerns of PROVIDENT PEOPLE – Concerns for KITCHEN and CAKES
◊ Concerns of PROVIDENT PEOPLE – Concerns for MARKETING – Section 1
◊ Concerns of PROVIDENT PEOPLE – Concerns for MARKETING – Section 2
◊ Concerns of PROVIDENT PEOPLE – Concerns for Dept payment
◊ In SOUTHERN PART of the COUNTRY: a HOST of PARALLEL CONCERNS
◊ The tray of Five fruits
◊ The Arrival of New Year
◊ SPRING SCROLLS – Section 1
◊ The Cult of The Deities of the Kitchen – Section 1
◊ The Cult of The Deities of the Kitchen – Section 2
◊ The Cult of The Deities of the Kitchen – Section 3
◊ Waiting for the NEW YEAR – Section 1
◊ Paying the last honours to CÔ KÍ” (The clerk’s wife) on the second Day of TẾT
◊ Before BEGINNING to WORK – Section 1
◊ Going for TẾT Ceremonies – Section 1
◊ Going for TẾT Ceremonies – Section 2
◊ Before Touching the Earth – Section 1
◊ Before Touching the Earth – Section 2
◊ Vietnam Lunar New Year – vi-VersiGoo.