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Lunar New Year’s Eve in Vietnam: Time to change your ways

Wednesday, February 18, 2015, 19:00 GMT+7
Lunar New Year’s Eve in Vietnam: Time to change your ways
Fireworks sparkle in the Ho Chi Minh City sky.

Central Coastal Vietnam (CCV) is the only place to be for Lunar New Year’s Eve in Vietnam. It’s also one of those rare countries where you can celebrate New Year twice! The weather will be balmy and humid. Our beer is colder than anywhere else and our local lasses’ smiles are more dazzling than the high beam of a sleeper bus on a narrow road. 

Where else in Vietnam can you be less than ten minutes from a gorgeous beach, five minutes from a great bar and one minute from a good restaurant? Or less than an hour’s drive to the cool, sweeping mountains to our west or half an hour to the golf course? Heck, it’s a tough life in CCV!

Tet or Lunar New Year is a blissful time here. My mum visited Hoi An last year and although she couldn’t cope with the heat, we walked around the town in the early evening as families settled down in front of the telly, doors wide open and some magnificent daises or a kumquat tree proudly placed at the main doorway. For me, it’s quite charming with the local kids playing on the now quiet streets, giggling in the warm evening breeze and the school girls riding around slowly chatting away on nearly empty roads.

Mind you, it’s not a great time to go to the bank or do your grocery shopping! I just went to the shop on Friday last week. It was crazier than that mob that stole the tiger beer last year from the overturned truck. I had to dodge my way through piles of gift packs and decorated boxes of whisky and push shoppers into the candy section just to get my weekly Larue export beer. Since I’m an expert at queuing the ‘Vietnamese style,’ I was able to get out pronto.

It’s also a great time for wishing, hoping and praying for a better year to come. Yet, I’ve never understood how burning paper makes you luckier – shouldn’t the smoke from earth make everyone in heaven annoyed? It was my editor that earlier summed it up well, “In Vietnam, do as the Vietnamese do. And wish as the Vietnamese wish.” I’d commented to him about the wishes for lots of money that usually seem too mercenary in my culture – yet it makes more sense to be honest about that, especially as so many in the land are still so poor.

So how do you feel about end-of-year parties? Boring? Fantastic? I loved my student’s eager and funny small parties. Nothing spectacular yet full of that enthusiastic energy and teasing manner that I find very infectious in Vietnam. Curiously, I asked some hotel staff I’ve been training and they moaned that they hated end-of-year parties. How come? They complained that they had to drink too much and were getting fat! Poor things...

And what kind of Lunar New Year’s resolutions are you going to make? Did anyone lose weight last year? Well, in a nation of skinny people that’s hard to tell... Did anyone successfully find the courage to meet the person of their dreams? They must have... It’s 90 million people and counting, right? Did anyone give up smoking? I’m not sure as I puff away in the coffee shop surrounded by smokers in the mornings.

Each year many of my students resolve to study harder, find a great job and help their parents, noble and honorable resolutions indeed. A few brats from my country, Australia, should take up such resolutions too!

Personally I’m making the resolutions to calm in the traffic and not yell at bemused motorcyclists, it’s not their fault. They’re just blind and lost the ability to turn their necks. I’m also going to cut back on beer but first I have to finish the cases of Larue still in the kitchen. What’s my greatest resolution? To travel more of this fine country and learn more of the language, although the second resolution is harder than I thought last year, and the year before that. Oh! I almost forgot! To train my puppies to ‘stay’! They think it means “Stivi said we could go souvenir hunting.”

So, if you’re in central Vietnam, welcome and use some of these phrases while you’re here: Chúc mừng năm mới! (Happy New Year!) or Cung chúc tân niên! (Best Wishes for the New Year!) or Cung chúc tân xuân! (Best Wishes for a New Spring!).

May you and your loved ones have a safe, happy and prosperous 2015!

Stivi Cooke

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