I can understand how people used to grow and preserve most of their own food. They could do it because they were home all day. What labor it is to grow and nurture and harvest and put away, even if the work is often disguised by a feeling of accomplishment.
The truth is I don’t always love canning, but that is mostly because it takes time and I’m always knee deep in things I need to get done. It also can be hot and the food comes ripe when it’s still sticky summer.
Combining forces makes a big difference though; you only need to do half the things and it takes half the time and afterwards you go out to dinner and celebrate that you don’t have to cook or prepare one more item of food…until tomorrow when you’ll finish the canning.
Everything in this photo is pickled; fermented pickles, sour pickles, pickled okra, the always sacred dilly beans, and pickled radishes with scallions.
There will be more and it leads me to wonder, should I consider ways to put away food that doesn’t involve pickling? One can only eat so many pickles, right?
The summer apples are just starting to drop, which means I will soon be drinking fresh cider, baking pies to give away, and making applesauce for dusty winter shelves.
Tet Nguyen Đan, more commonly known by its shortened nameTet, is the most important and popular holiday and festival in Vietnam. It isthe Vietnamese New Year derived from the Chinese New Year based on the Lunarcalendar, alunisolar calendar. The name Tet Nguyen Đan is Sino-Vietnamese forFeast of the First Morning
Tet is celebrated on the same day as Chinese New Year though
exceptions arise due to the one-hour time difference between Hanoi and Beijing.
It takes place from the first day of the first month of the Lunar calendar
(around late January or early February) until at least the third day. Tet
shares many of the same customs of its Chinese counterpart, having been derived
from it. Many Vietnamese prepare for Tet by cooking special holiday foods and
cleaning the house. There are a lot of customs practiced during Tet, like
visiting a person’s house on the first day of the new year (Xong Nha),
ancestral worshipping, wishing New Year’s greetings, giving lucky money to
children and elderly people, and opening a shop.
Tet is also an occasion for pilgrims and family reunions.
During Tet, Vietnamese visit their relatives and temples, forgetting about the
troubles of the past year and hoping for a better upcoming year. They consider
Tet to be the first day of spring and the festival is often called Hoi Xuan (spring
Vietnamese people usually return to their families during
Tet. Some return to worship at the family altar or visit the graves of their
ancestors in their homeland. Although Tet is a national holiday among all
Vietnamese, each region and religion has its own customs.
Tet in the three Vietnamese regions can be divided into
three periods, known as Tat Nien (Before New Year’s Eve), Giao Thua (New Year’s
Eve), and Tan Nien (the New Year), representing the preparation before Tet, the
eve of Tet, and the days of and following Tet, respectively. All of these
customs are in Tet in Vietnam.
BEFORE NEW YEAR’S EVE
This period begins one or two weeks before the actual
celebration. The general atmosphere leading up to Tet is in the bustle of
shopping, decorating the home, cooking traditional Tet food and waiting for
relatives to return home. People try to pay off their debts in advance so that
they can be debt-free on Tet. Parents buy new clothes for their children so
that the children can wear them when Tet arrives. Because a lot of commercial
activity will cease during the celebrations, people try to stock up on supplies
as much as possible.
In the days leading up to Tet, the streets and markets are
full of people. As the shops will be closed during Tet, everyone is busy buying
food, clothes, and decorations for their house.
Vietnamese families usually have a family altar, to pay
respect to their ancestors. Vietnamese families have a tray of five fruits on
their altar called “Ngu Qua”, including banana, orange, kumquat,
pomelo and finger citron [some other places have Custard Apple, Coconut,
Papaya, Mango and Pineapple; since it spells out Cau, Dua, Du, Xai]. Each fruit
conveys a different meaning. Pomelos promise a lucky and sweet year. Banana and
finger citron symbolize a protective hand while kumquats and oranges represent
success and prosperity. During Tet the altar is thoroughly cleaned and new
offerings are placed there. Traditionally, the three kitchen guardians for each
house (Ong Tao) (Kitchen God), who report to the Jade Emperor about the events
in that house over the past year, return to heaven on the 23rd day of the
twelfth month by lunar calendar.
In the days leading up to Tet, each family cooks special
holiday foods such as bánh chưng and bánh dầy. Preparations for these foods are
quite extensive. Family members often take turns to keep watch on the fire
overnight, telling each other stories about Tet of past years.
THE NEW YEAR
The first day of Tet is reserved for the nuclear family.
Children receive a red envelope containing money from their elders. This tradition
is called Mung Tuoi (happy new age) in the north and lì xì in the south.
Usually, children wear their new clothes and give their elders the traditional Tet
greetings before receiving the money. Since the Vietnamese believe that the
first visitor a family receives in the year determines their fortune for the
entire year, people never enter any house on the first day without being
invited first. The act of being the first person to enter a house on Tet is
called Xong Dat, Xong Nha or Dap Dat, which is one of the most important
rituals during Tet. According to Vietnamese tradition, if good things come to
the family on the first day of the lunar New Year, the entire following year
will also be full of blessings. Usually, a person of good temper, morality and
success will be the lucky sign for the host family and be invited first into
However, just to be safe, the owner of the house will leave
the house a few minutes before midnight and come back just as the clock strikes
midnight to prevent anyone else entering the house first who might potentially
bring any unfortunate events in the new year to the household.
Sweeping during Tet is taboo or Xui (unlucky), since it
symbolizes sweeping the luck away. It is also taboo for anyone who experienced
a recent loss of a family member to visit anyone else during Tet.
During subsequent days, people visit relatives and friends.
Traditionally but not strictly, the second day of Tet is usually reserved for
friends, while the third day is for teachers. LocalBuddhist temples are popular
spots as people like to give donations and to get their fortunes told during Tet.
Children are free to spend their new money on toys or on gamblinggames such as Bau Cua Ca Cop, which can be found in the streets. Prosperous families can pay
for dragon dancers to perform at their house. There are also public
performances for everyone to watch.
Traditionally, each family displays Cay Neu, an artificial
New Year Tree consisting of a bamboo pole 5 to 6 m long. The top end is usually
decorated with many objects, depending on the locality, including good luck
charms, origami fish, cactus branches, etc.
At Tet every house is usually decorated by Hoa Mai – Ochna
integerrima (in the central and southern parts of Vietnam) or HoaDao – Peach
flower (in the northern part of Vietnam) or Hoa Ban (in mountain areas). In the
north, some people (especially the elite in the past) also decorate their house
with a Prunus mume tree (also called Mai in Vietnamese). In the north or
central, the kumquat tree is a popular decoration for the living room during Tet.
Its many fruits symbolize the fertility and fruitfulness that the family hopes
for in the coming year.
Vietnamese people also decorate their homes with bonsaiand
flower plants such as chrysanthemum (Hoa Cuc), marigold (Van Tho) symbolizing
longevity, Mao Ga in Southern Vietnam and paperwhite flower (Thuy Tien),
lavender (Violet), Hoa Buom in Northern Vietnam. In the past, there was a
tradition that old people tried to make their paperwhite flowers blossom right
the watch-night time. They also hung up Dong Ho Paintings and Thu Phap (calligraphy pictures).
The traditional greetings are “Chuc Mung Nam Moi“
and ”Cung Chuc Tan Xuan“ (Happy New Year). People also wish each
other prosperity and luck. Common wishes for Tet include:
Live up to 100 years: used by children for elders.
Traditionally, everyone is one year older on Tet, so children would wish their
grandparents health and longevity in exchange for Mung Tuoi or Li Xi
health, and prosperity
May a myriad things go according to your will
Plenty of health
Congratulations and be prosperous
May money flow in like water
In Vietnam, to celebrate Tet is to An Tet, literally meaning
"Tet eating”, showing the importance of food in its celebration. Some
of the food is also eaten year-round, while other dishes are only eaten during Tet.
Also, some of the food is vegetarian since it is believed to be good luck to
eat vegetarian on Tet. Some traditional food on Tet are:
Banh Chung and Banh Giay: essentially tightly packedsticky
rice with meat or bean fillings wrapped in banana leaves. Banh Chung (rectangular) and Bánh Giay (circular) are symbolically connected with Tet and
are essential in any Tet celebration. Preparation is time-consuming, and can
take days to cook. The story of their origins and their connection with Tet is
often recounted to children while cooking them overnight.
Hat Dua: roasted watermelon seeds, also eaten during Tet.
Dua Hanh: pickled onion and pickled cabbage.
Cu Kieu: pickled small leeks.
Mut: These dried candied fruits are rarely eaten at any time
Cau Dua Du Xoai - In southern Vietnam, popular fruits used
for offerings at the family altar in fruit arranging art are the
custard-apple/sugar-apple/soursop (Mang Cau), coconut (Dua), papaya (Du Du),
and mango (Xoai), since they sound like “Cau Vua Du Xai” ([We] pray
for enough [money] to spend) in the southern dialect of Vietnamese.
Thit Kho Nuoc Dua Meaning “Meat Stewed in Coconut
Juice”, it is a traditional dish of pork and medium boiled eggs stewed in
a broth-like sauce made of young coconut juice and Nuoc Mam. It is often eaten
with pickled bean sprouts and chives, and white rice.
People are delighted to enjoy exciting games during Tet:Bau Cua, Co Tuong, Nem Con, Choi Trau, Da Ga, marshmallow toss, etc…They also
participate in some competitions presenting their knowledge, strength and
aestheticism such as: bird competition and Ngam Tho competition.
People can also visit fortune tellers, in temples and in the
streets, to have their fortunes told. You must know your zodiac sign and the
star you were born under to have your fortune read.
CUSTOMS AND TABOOS
These customs come from traditions passed from generation to
generation and have become standard. Because of the idea that the beginning
will affect the middle and the end of the year, Vietnamese people avoid doing
bad things and try to do good things during Tet holiday.
One should give people lucky presents to enhance the
relationship between themselves and others: new clothes, peach branches (for
expelling evil), cocks (wishing for good manners), new rice (wishing for being
well-fed), rice wine in a gourd (wishing for a rich and comfortable life), Banh Chung (or Banh Tet) and Banh Giay which symbolize sky and earth (for worshipping
the ancestors), red things (red symbolizes happiness, luckiness, advantages)
like watermelon, dogs (the bark – Gau Gau – sounds like the word Giau - richness
in Vietnamese language), medicated oil (Dau in Vietnamese, also sounds similar
One should give lucky Dong Ho Paintings such as: “Ga Dan“ (wishing for having many children), or ”Vinh Hoa”, but
should not give unlucky Dong Ho paintings like “Danh Ghen“ related to
One should buy a lot of water for Tet, because people wish
for money to flow like water currents in a stream (proverb: “Tien Vo Nhu Nuoc”).
One should sprinkle lime powder around the house to expel
One should return all things borrowed, and pay debts before Tet.
One shouldn’t say or do bad things during Tet.
One shouldn’t hurt or kill animals or plants but should set
them free. The reason for this originates from Buddhism’s causality.
One shouldn’t sweep the house or empty out the rubbish to
avoid luck and benefits going with it, especially on the first day of the new
year. One shouldn’t let the broom in confusion if people don’t want it to be
One shouldn’t give these presents to others: clock or watch
(the recipient’s time is going to pass), cats (Meo in Vietnamese language
pronounced like Ngheo, poverty), medicine (the receiver will get ill), cuttle
fish (its ink is black, an unlucky colour), writing ink (for the same reason),
scissors or knives (they bring incompatibility).
One shouldn’t have duck meat because it brings unluckiness.
One shouldn’t have shrimp in case one would move backwards
like shrimp, in other words, one would not succeed.
One shouldn’t buy or wear white clothes because white is the
colour of funerals in Vietnam.
One shouldn’t let the rice-hulling mill go empty because it
symbolizes failed crops.
One shouldn’t refuse anything others give or wish you during