This is it, the Biggy, the grand stress reliever of the year. It’s over; that weird nightmarish year that’s finished. Finally, we’ve got something new to look forward to!
We’re talking midnight mile-long motorbike jams in Ho Chi Minh City, firework displays to wow the kids and terrify the dogs, and a heck of lot of ‘mot, hai, ba, yo’ heard in the bars and cafés of every tiny village in Vietnam.
It occurs on the evening of the 24th of January in 2020. And the nation goes wild.
This is where the mobile phone networks go into meltdown five minutes past midnight and your drink order is a ten-minute wait. It’s the moment you either thank your lucky stars that you’re single or in a relationship and not the best time to start something new or dump something old! (That comes later when you’re capable of thinking straight again…)
Vietnam’s Lunar New Year holiday starts on the 25th of January and runs to the 29th. However, with people traveling to their hometowns and the weekends involved, you could just as easily say it will be about ten days off from work!
In the month preceding Tet (pronounced more like ‘tek’) as it’s called, the whole nation goes into a slow meltdown of services and ability to get things done as family and home matters take precedence over work responsibilities and everyone’s on the hustle to raise money for gifts, house painting, travel, and new clothes.
It is the Year of the Rat (or as I prefer… the Mouse – it’s cuter!) and apparently people born in this zodiac sign work hard and are good at saving money, diligent, and positive!
You’ll need to plan for this event as getting around on the night is difficult in the major cities as 50 million motorbikes spill into the streets, taxis are doing a roaring trade, and your best bet is to choose a venue and stay put! For the lucky ones (like me) living on the coastline – it’s easier just to head to the beach and party on into the wee hours of the morning.
It’s a breath of relief for the Vietnamese after spending most of January preparing for Tet and simply for letting go of all the stress and worries of the past year. Red and yellow are everywhere as folks believe those colors bring good fortune. They probably will need some after blowing so much money on lucky envelopes for the kids and paying off their debts, an old tradition that has a lot to do with not carrying problems into the New Year. Maybe my old foes might finally pay back all that money they owe me!
Most of us will be familiar with 'Chúc Mừng Năm Mới' (Happy New Year) but there are some other good phrases to use as well. You could say, 'Tiền vô như nước' (money flows in like water) or 'Vạn sự như ý' (rough translation: may many things go your way – the ‘ý’ by the way is pronounced like ‘ee’).
Of course, there’s all the food and drink you can eat, but also the fireworks in many cities. Be warned, it gets really crowded! Since it’s been a particularly dry weather year in Vietnam, I expect the night will be hot, humid and noisy as hell.
Careful after midnight as the young Vietnamese like to ride their motorbikes around and around, so crossing roads gets a little bit hazardous!
A popular trend as more Vietnamese can afford to is to head out of town to Da Lat or the beach cities such as Nha Trang, Da Nang, and little old Hoi An and, over the days after New Year’s Eve, travel the country back to their hometowns instead of heading directly there as in the past.
I think the hardest part will be finding a suitable spot for a selfie as everyone flocks to the nearest empty place to take a snap. Oddly the backgrounds are rarely taken into consideration but I suppose you can’t have ‘perfect’ on the night! So check your camera battery before you go out!
Personally I think 2019 was a pretty weird year, for me as well as the world and we’ll be glad to see the back of it. So partying hard this time around will have a stronger, more urgent feel to it.
Fortunately for the Vietnamese, the nation is going strong and that’s a far more cheerful prospect than most of the world. But that’s been well deserved after so much hard work in 2019.
Most of us won’t remember or think about that on the night but I thought it was worth mentioning.
Anyway…’tis the night to inspire us all and have fun so as C.S. Lewis (a famous writer) said, "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream."
I’ll drink to that…!