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Happy New Year: After rocking the town

Wednesday, January 01, 2020, 08:31 GMT+7
Happy New Year: After rocking the town
Happy New Year from Vietnam! Photo: Tuoi Tre

As much as you might try to hide from the global celebration of New Year’s Eve, it’s equally unavoidable to face the contemplation of a brand new year, the morning after.

For most of us, the most usual reaction is a breath of relief of not only having survived the past year but still having some money left at the end of it. And almost straight after that is the happy realization that you now have a clean slate to begin another trip around the sun over 365 days.

This is also the most frequent time to make a new year’s resolutions to change something in your life – although it’s just as often abandoned during the year with a better (and more achievably realistic) goal. Not the best time to do this as New Year’s Day is kind of an emotional high, full of exciting possibilities so reality takes a back seat to inspiring ambitions such as losing weight (didn’t you try that last year?), saving money and getting rich (stop buying so many useless trinkets and expensive gadgets) or the real biggy; a new relationship (I bet you forgot to say goodbye to the old first, didn’t you?).

Young Vietnamese take a selfie against the backdrop of fireworks in Ho Chi Minh City, December 31, 2019. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Young Vietnamese take a selfie against the backdrop of fireworks in Ho Chi Minh City, December 31, 2019. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Unlike the Vietnamese, there aren’t many customs concerning behavior or visiting people at the beginning of a new year. A lot of people spend their time at home relaxing. For example, its summer in Australia and a lot of people watch sport on TV or go to a game. Quite a few folks like to have a family gathering BBQ at a park or next to a river or the beach. In the northern hemisphere where there is snow, snowboarding and tobogganing are popular – and the snow fights!

For a lot of Vietnamese that I personally know, the Western New Year’s Day is just another working day although the resolutions thing I mentioned earlier does come into play. It’s mostly about working harder, getting a promotion or higher salary and the toughest resolution of all; having more time with their families. The real Vietnamese resolutions will come with visits to the temples and pagodas around Tet, on Lunar New Year’s Eve).

I can’t comment or generalize too much about family time in Vietnam, however I do know most of my Vietnamese married friends both work – often on a split timetable based around taking their kids to school, doing the shopping and having at least one parent home in the afternoons and evenings; not everyone has a grandparent nearby for this. This makes the weekends even more precious for those middle-class families who can afford time off. Part of this is also due to the pressure to save and build a home as quickly as possible for young married couples.

The 1st of January (Western calendar) is also a national holiday in a lot of Western countries so it’s a popular time for shopping. This is when a lot of retail businesses do a roaring trade – particularly for stuff to upgrade the house and garden. In Vietnam, I’ve noticed over the years the growing interest from locals in visiting flower nurseries for Tet plants and fruit trees for bargains before the mad rush and ‘fire-sale’ (everything has to be sold) in the week before Tet. People seem to consider their purchases much earlier than they did a decade ago.

One curious moment comes for many of us when we come down from the natural high of celebrating to the realization that one year is much like the next and not that much has actually changed. So probably resolutions might be part of our human instinct to take back some control over our lives – losing weight and deciding to learn something new are examples of this.

There is such a thing as the ‘New Year blues,’ a state of mild depression that some people get after the big day as life continues with no significant or amazingly upbeat event. It’s also probably why a lot of Westerners take their holidays straight after New Year’s Eve – a ‘pick-me-up’ tonic to refresh ourselves before plunging back into normal life again.

Foreigners celebrate New Year's Eve in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Foreigners celebrate New Year's Eve in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Still, most of us try to be positive about this. The Japanese have ‘forget-the-year parties,’ called ‘Bonenkai,’ to sweep away the feelings of the past and look forward to new times. I like the idea – simple, direct, honest and to the point. It’s always better not to dwell on the mistakes of the past but I feel many Westerners are not that good at admitting failures. Just as Western society is also not good at dealing death, so we still don’t do ‘getting over something’ that well either.

I reckon we could learn a lesson from the Vietnamese who see every day as a chance to start again and grab some of what life has to offer. Vietnamese don’t hide their disappointments but don’t think about them for long – life’s too busy and in the fierce world of Vietnamese competition for prosperity, status and the good things in life, there’s no time for long faces.

What your plans for 2020, I wish all of you the very best luck in finding whatever you’re looking for. And just like the Vietnamese; do it with a smile!

Stivi Cooke / Tuoi Tre News Contributor

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