Celebrating the first Tet Holiday (the national biggest holiday) in Vietnam, Sadiq Usman is both excited and homesick. Then he starts to find out the interesting parts of such a strange festival in his new home.
Tet Holiday vs Eid al-Adha
As the clock countdowns towards the biggest and the most anticipated Festival (Tet holiday) in Vietnam, it reminds me of the adrenaline rush attached to the tenth day of Dhu al-Hijjah in a last month of the Islamic calendar, one of the biggest festivals in Nigeria. Irrespective of the society we come from, the similarities are not farfetched.
Tet is a perfect way to celebrate the union of nature (man and his environment), human life (living and dead), cultural heritage, future happiness and praying for good fortune. In my country, Eid Al Adha is a celebration in commemoration of Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his young first and only son in obedience of a command from Allah (God). Because of his obedience and sacrifice, the son was replaced with a sacrificial ram as a reward for his faith. Since then, people celebrate the days with sacrificed animals.
Tet Holiday vs Eid al-Adha
“Chúc Mừng Năm Mới” and “Barka da Sallah”
When the clock strikes twelve, the Giao Thua ceremony commences, marking the end of the previous year and the beginning of a new one. Bells ring and prayers are chanted on the streets, at Buddhist temples; while at home, families gather to congratulate each other for turning a year older as Tet represents a birthday for all. Everywhere the air is filled with shouts of cheers, sharing of gifts. Everyone enjoys special moments that bring people together.
The cheer words “Chúc mừng năm mới” (Happy new year) these days bring me back to the time my sibling and I were awaken by the word “Barka da Sallah”(Happy celebration) on Eid Al Adha days in my childhood. On such days, the Muslims gather at a preferably open ground or a large mosque to say two Rakats of prayer. I personally prepare for that moment when the ram, camel or cow is slaughtered and everyone gets a share to roast. We usually dress in new clothes with different style of African design with a choking scent of perfume.
Bánh Chưng vs Sacrified Animals
The most favorite food for Tet holiday that my Vietnamese friends teach me is Banh Chung (steamed square cake), which is called Banh Tet in the South. It is the food made from glutinous rice, green bean and pork. It is covered by green banana leaves and symbolizes the earth. People said that it was invented by a prince of the first dynasty in Vietnam. Vietnamese, especially those living in the countryside or in traditional families, seem to enjoy the time gathering together to make and cook square cakes on wood fire, when they can feel the warmth from the cake pot and the kinship. After the cakes are well-cooked, the family can keep some and give some to their relatives and friends.
In my country, Eid al-Adha’s most important food is animal meat, usually from a sheep, a cow, a goat, a buffalo or a camel. As per sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, the meat from the sacrificed animal would be divided into three parts. The family keeps one third of the share; another third is presented to their relatives, friends and neighbors while the remaining third is sent to the poor in need. However, the division is optional, up to the family’s decision.
Though different in terms of historical and religious backgrounds, Eid al-Adha and Tet Holiday both seem to highly appreciate the sense of sharing and community involvement. The charitable practices of the Muslim community are illustrated during Eid al-Adha by the efforts to see that no impoverished person is left without an opportunity to enjoy the sacrificial meal during these days. I was also told that before Tet holiday in Vietnam, there are many charity programs organized, especially by the young people, to help the poor to enjoy better Tet time with their family.
We celebrated Eid al-Adhain a Vietnamese mosque
“Tell the world that I’m coming home”
“Mừng ngày Tết trên khắp quê tôi.
Người ra Trung, ra Bắc, vô Nam
Dù đi đâu ai cũng nhớ.
Về chung vui bên gia đình”
“Celebrating Tet in my whole country
Danang, Hanoi or Hochiminh City
Wherever you go, please keep in mind
To come back for Tet with your family”
That is the lyric from a Tet song in Vietnam, which is very popular these days. All of my Vietnamese friends will come back home for Tet Holiday when they are allowed to have nearly two weeks off. This makes me to miss my home so much. During the Muslim festival in Nigeria, the government gives our citizens a week-long celebration time, so we also usually travel from the city back home to celebrate and have a reunion with the family. These festivals are not just about celebration, they are about love, about coming back to the origin and peace.
“When In Rome, Do As The Romans Do”
I have been in Vietnam for 4 months and expect to study here for the next 3 years. So actually I do not plan to spend my time here to miss Eid al-Adha in my country. I am here to explore Vietnam, explore the Tet Holiday. I hope to have a chance to make a “banh chung” by myself here, to celebrate Tet in a Vienamese family, and to tell my dear friends that “Hey dude, I will teach you about my Eid al-Adha, so please help me become part of your Tet holiday”.
That’s how an abroad-er lives and find their second home in a new country.
Featured photo: from Internet