The celebration seems to have grown over time from a relatively small gathering to lots of people—colleagues, parents of students, neighbors, family, lots of kids. The food is unbelievably delicious and plentiful but more importantly the conversations and interactions with others in this larger community are enthusiastic, sincere, provocative.
As JB and I have become older, we have a lot less interaction with young children. (We do have two grandchildren, but they live out of town). There was something so refreshing to be in the midst of this intergenerational celebration– two four year-olds spinning through the party under a festive asian umbrella, another at the counter in pure savory ecstasy over the devouring of his bowl of pho (especially the noodles which ended up everywhere), an elegant older aunt piling her plate with unfamiliar foods, an 18 month old with a very wide smile (doll and juice cup in hand) negotiating the forest of legs of older humans, neighbors taking pictures and handing out LCD flashing New Year’s toys, balding cousins bearing 6-packs of beer.
And the discussions of war, unions, mayoral elections, stories of school and families creating a humming cacophony; the burning incense punctuating the space; guests setting faux money afire for revered ancestors; pineapples, watermelons, trees branches with yellow flowers adorning the rooms; red envelopes filled with chocolate money inside, all contributing to and encouraging a real celebration of Tet.
“It’s the year of the cat,” my friend shared, “not the year of the rabbit as is celebrated in the rest of Asia.” With my pleasantly full belly and uplifted spirits, I am ready for this new start. The year of the cat is said to be stress-free and marked by gentleness, sensitivity, and kindness. I am banking on these zodiacal attributes to have a major impact on the decisions and consequences of our political and personal lives this year. After all, we have to build our reserves. Coming up is the year of the dragon.
(Photos by JB)