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Tet far from home


Tet far from home

When walking on the streets in Rotterdam these past few days, you may encounter all types of tiger images, as in the Lunar calendar, Year of the Ox just came to an end and Year of the Tiger follows. To many Asian descent, the celebration of Lunar New Year is spiritually significant, during which people venerate their ancestors with deep-rooted traditions and rituals, while also having a blast with their loved ones. In Vietnam, my home country, this celebration is referred to as Tet, our biggest holiday of the year. On January 31, 2022, the Lunar calendar reached its last page. I woke up to this indescribable, jittering feeling (yet familiar) that I have every Lunar New Year’s Eve. One thing is different – this year, I celebrated Tet away from my home country, for the first time.

But regardless, we celebrated our Tet at home in a traditional way, which we do every year, rather than casually hanging out in restaurants.

When swiping through my friends’ Instagram Stories, I could see activities of all kinds come up. Lunar New Year is all about new beginnings and togetherness, so the main activities of Tet make sure to honor these. Some friends of mine decorated their houses with peach blossoms, kumquat trees, and red ornaments, since Vietnamese people believe this bestows good fortune and wealth during the entire year. Some gave lucky money in red envelopes to one another, which is called Li Xi, believed to bring material possessions, health, and good luck. Some put on Ao Dai, the Vietnamese traditional garment, and took good pictures to share with international friends. The most common activity had to be gathering and having traditional foods together. Tet is always about spending quality time with your loved ones, especially family reunions. Despite being unable to reunite with our families, we could join the warm and blissful atmosphere of Tet by gathering up and cooking traditional dishes together.










A traditional New Year's Eve dinner table of Vietnamese students. The coziness feels just like home (Picture by: Oscar & Phuong)

Being far from home – far from the special buzzing atmosphere of Tet didn’t stop me and other Vietnamese students from being part of the festivity. The exhilarating feeling I had from the very morning of New Year’s Eve just compelled me. This impulse arose for a reason: not only did the holiday become a get-together occasion for all of us, but it also entailed activities that carry the ancestral values and spirits we all grew up with, which have become part of our cultural identity.

Cultural identity emphasizes the sense of belonging and attachment to a community that we identify with. Celebrating Tet satisfied our cultural identity in the sense that it highlighted our belongingness to our home country, as well as the tie to our ancestry. Furthermore, by sharing photos of our traditions on social media, we also fulfilled our desire to express our cultural identity – one of the identities that make up us as humans – in the digital world. We all wanted to show our friends from other cultures that we take great pride in our heritage.

(Picture by: Quynh Dang)