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Saigon: Viet-namese New Year – TET 2009 – (Part 7)

On the fourth day, banks and shops reopen. Transactions, although slower, will be conducted more cheerfully than usual. Offices open and work resumes. Careful attention is paid to the resumption of activities. The first outing is the first time in the New Year that a family leaves their home. A propitious time is chosen in advance for this outing and one sometimes asks the advice of fortunetellers.

Formerly, scholars initiated their new brushes and paper with a small ceremony with the wearing of new clothes. This also requires an auspicious hour. The theme of the proverb or poem is considered carefully and newly purchased high-grade paper was used. Today’s students are less formal in their initiation rites, but most enjoy a new pen and a fresh notebook for the New Year. Everyone determines to do what he or she can to help fate along to make the next year most successful.

In the countryside, there are rituals to enliven the land out of its winter’s rest. The Rites of Dong Tho activate the soil to bring it alive from its sacred rest. When there was a king in Viet-nam, he symbolically initiated the harrowing of the first furrow of the planting season in a royal rite.

A hundred years ago, on Hang Buom Street, a ceremony was performed right after Tet called the Beating of the Spring Ox. This ceremony initiated the breaking open of the agricultural land and chased away the winter cold. A ceramic image of the ox was beaten with sticks until it broke into pieces. Everyone scramble to grab and take home a piece of the sacred ox.

As always, you are welcome to share your memories of Tet by leaving your comments below.

Chuc Mung Nam Moi! :)

Bob

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