Ta-Da! And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for! Drum roll, please!
Lunar New Year’s Eve…!
You’ve survived the Year of the Rooster … now it’s time for the Year of the Dog. And that’s my year!
2017 was a hectic and wild year. APEC and Damrey both came and went. Folks protested about unfair highway tolls and the ever-present pollution issues. The U23 football team broke records and made sporting history for Vietnam. Economically, it was a good year for Vietnam and tourism numbers are slowly rising. Dengue fever sadly hit record highs amid confusion over the use and effectiveness of dengue vaccine trials. Fortunately, banh mi continued to be the best thing since sliced bread!
Some people love to party on Lunar New Year’s Eve and others absolutely loathe it. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, a ‘curl up by the fireplace’ person or the life of the party – you can’t ignore LNYE.
LNYE also marks the beginning of homecoming celebrations for many families with a big feast and much partying. Catching up on the news of relatives and loved ones and much needed sleep are done over the next few days. The last day of the old year is strictly for fun, no serious talking allowed! The parental ‘fifty questions’ can wait…
One fun thing on the night while you’re waiting for that special excuse to hug and kiss everyone you’d avoid the other 364 days of the years is the Vietnamese TV specials, often comedies and the Vietnamese do have some very funny comedians. I have seen in previous years a comedy show about the Kitchen Gods reporting to heaven about the families’ behavior throughout the year which does get close to the bone with the gags. Kids often stay up to watch so that they don’t fall asleep before the midnight cheering.
Changes have occurred over the past few decades of modernity. A lot of young people choose to go out for the night instead of staying at home in the traditional way. Ho Chi Minh City becomes a madhouse of motorbikes simply cruising around for the fun of it, Hanoi is not much different and Da Nang rocks until the wee hours with coffee shops doing a roaring trade as the city hosts so many students and young adults from rural areas.
Hoi An too gets packed to the max with visiting Vietnamese taking in the old town and whacking each other with selfie sticks in front of lantern shops. Nha Trang also will hold many events and it’s fun just to stroll up and down the promenade. And the infamous District 1 Walking Street will be wall-to-wall people watching.
One thing with all these crowds is the issue of safety. Keep your wallet and camera secure as you can and try to avoid large crowds of young Vietnamese drinking in open spaces. Definitely leave the motorbike at home and lock your place up tight! Travel in a group if you can and try not to use motorbike taxi guys without a company if you’re out really late! Generally, safety for expats and tourists is fine in the major tourist spots but hanging out at a backpacker sleaze cocktail bucket bar at 2:00 in the morning is just a dumb idea.
If you’ve lived here long enough, then you already know about the drinking customs and that annoying insistence on you (the foreigner) downing every alcoholic glass in one go that occurs at weddings and social events such as Tet. The local whisky hooch is dangerous stuff so if the neighbor rocks up to your house with an old plastic bottle full of…um…something – you’ve been warned! Generally, I avoid the ‘one chuck’ (drink it down in one go) by patting my tummy and muttering something about dying.
I guess the most important thing is simply to smile at the future. From Lunar New Year’s Eve onwards, the next 365 days of your life will be full of new chances, new opportunities, new people and new places. So whoever you meet on the night… you can say…
Chúc Mừng Năm Mới! (Because a happy new year will happen to you too…)