Americans enter their long holiday season—and really the only big one—in November (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah, Kaawaza, Winter Solstice, New Year’s Day) ending the eating-visiting-drinking-gift giving rounds January 1.
For 2020 instead of visiting and parties, we’re advised to stay home in an attempt not to spread the COVID-19 virus. Other cultures and nationalities are likewise changing routines this pandemic year.
In my novel, If You Walk Long Enough, Reid finds himself caught up in Têt 1968. The most significant Vietnamese holiday of the year, it is the equivalent to the entire U.S. holiday season. Plus, you can even throw in your birthday.
For 2021, Têt is celebrated February 12 to February 17. Although the customs and celebrations vary from district to district and from the countryside to the city, there is nonetheless a shared cultural thread that ties the Vietnamese people together—ancestor worship.
Ancestor worship or family remembrance provides a link for individuals to remember the values and ethical standards of previous generations and is rooted in the belief that the soul is immortal. A connection to family that came before, with their values and ethical standards, remains a unique tradition. Despite influences from China, Asian regions, and neighboring countries, the Vietnamese people have resisted assimilation.
Patriotism and social cohesiveness, a second shared thread, is wholeheartedly reinforced during Têt. Family reunions, temple visits, and travel home take precedent as friends and family hand out good wishes and gifts for the upcoming year.
Red and yellow, the colors of good fortune, are ubiquitous in the markets and among flower vendors. People put forward their best behavior. After all, what is done during the Lunar Celebration will follow them all year.
Many customs of American southerners are similar. Whatever is done on New Year’s Day will be what’s done all year. I always rode my horse even it meant only one trot around the pasture. With good January weather, a longer ride (a special joy) was a hedge against the upcoming year. And I was careful to never get involved with household work or outside chores.
Like Têt, Southerners are careful to eat he correct foods on New Year’s Day. Folks living south of the Mason-Dixon Line enjoy black-eyed peas for luck, collard or other greens translate into folding money, and, if possible, pork or pork seasoning to help “root” forward (think pigs rooting through the woods for acorns). Visits back to the homeplace or family get-togethers were sacrosanct both places.
If You Walk Long Enough will be available for purchase early 2021 via Amazon and Ingram affiliated bookstores. Think about your family’s customs and send me your brightest memories.