In a few days, we are going to celebrate Lunar New year. This year, the Lunar New Year falls on 3rd February 2011 which is relatively early.
Lunar New Year has many names, the most popular is Chinese New Year. However, it’s celebrated in many other Asian countries including Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam (called Tết), Indonesia (called Sin Cia or Imlek) and to a lesser extent Korea, Japan. According to the Chinese astrology calendar, 2011 is a Chinese Rabbit Year.
The Chinese calendar combines lunar, solar and Stem-Branch cycle systems. Stem cycle is the Yin Yang Five Elements. The Branch cycle is Rat, Cow, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Chicken, Dog and Pig.
The Vietnamese horoscope has 12 animals as well. They are Rat, Cow, Tiger, Cat, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Chicken, Dog and Pig. But in the Vietnamese zodiac, the Cat replaces the Rabbit in the Chinese zodiac.
Why the Cat replaces the Rabbit ?
No one actually know the real reason why cat has replaced rabbit in Vietnamese animal Zodiac. According to http://zhidao.baidu.com the most plausible theory proposed was that when the 12 Animal Zodiac was introduced into Vietnam from China, the “Mao 卯” in the Zodiac year “Mao Tu 卯兔” (Mao Rabbit Year) has the same Chinese pronunciation as “Mao 猫” (cat). Because the “Mao Nian 卯年” (Mao Year) sounds the same as “Mao Nian 貓年” (cat year), the Vietnamese had made a mistake in the writing and recorded it as “cat year” (mao nian 貓年）.
I just found out that for the Vietnamese, the 2011 lunar new year is the year of Cat when I visited Saigon recently (please see my post “3 Days in Saigon”). This has triggered me to learn more about Vietnamese Lunar New year or also known as Tết.
What is Tết?
Tết Nguyên Đán, more commonly known by its shortened name Tết, is the most important and popular holiday and festival in Vietnam. It is the Vietnamese New year marking the arrival of spring based on the Lunar calendar or a lunisolar calendar. The name Tết Nguyên Đán is Sino-Vietnamese for Feast of the First Morning, derived from the Hán nôm characters 節元旦
Tết is also an occasion for pilgrims and family reunions. During Tết, Vietnamese visit their relatives and temples, forgetting about the troubles of the past year and hoping for a better upcoming year. They consider Tết to be the first day of spring and the festival is often called Hội xuân (spring festival).
In Vietnamese language, to celebrate Tết is to ăn Tết, literally meaning “Tết eating”, showing the importance of food in its celebration. Some of the food is also eaten year-round, while other dishes are only eaten during Tết. Also, some of the food is vegetarian since it is believed to be good luck to eat vegetarian on Tết. Some traditional food on Tết are:
- Bánh chưng (rectangular) is tightly packed sticky rice with meat or bean fillings wrapped in Dong (Phrynium placentarium) leaves. When this leaves is unavailable, banana leaves can be used as a substitute.
- Bánh dầy (circular) are symbolically connected with Tết and are essential in any Tết celebration.
- In my country, we also have a kind of Bánh chưng called Bacang, packed sticky rice with meat filling wrapped in bamboo leaves (pyramid shape).
- and the sweet version which is similar to Bánh dầy called Kue Cang (smaller pyramid)
- Hạt Dưa: roasted watermelon seeds, also eaten during Tết.
- In my country, roasted melon seeds are called Kuaci.
- Dưa Hành: pickled onion and pickled cabbage.
- Mứt: These dried fruit candies are rarely eaten at any time besides Tết.
- Cầu Dừa Đủ Xoài – In southern Vietnam, popular fruits used for offerings at the family altar in fruit arranging art are the custard apple / sugar apple / soursop (mãng cầu), coconut (dừa), papaya (đu đủ), and mango (xoài), since they sound like “cầu vừa đủ xài” ([We] pray for enough [money] to spend) in the southern dialect of Vietnamese
- Thịt Kho Nước Dừa, meaning “Meat Stewed in Coconut Juice”, it is a traditional dish of fatty pork stomach and medium boiled eggs stewed in a broth-like sauce made overnight of young coconut juice and nuoc mam.
- In my country we have similar pork stew as Thịt Kho Nước Dừa called Sek Ba
Now, let’s see what the Year of the Cat is all about:
The Vietnamese year of the Cat symbolizes sensitivity, gentleness and kindness. People born in the Vietnamese horoscope years: 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987,1999, 2011 and 2023 are Cats.
Cats are naturally attentive and hospitable because they do not like unpredictable and unsettled situations; they have the tendency to feel contrived in promoting a comfortable and peaceful atmosphere.
Cats pay great attention to detail. They always get anxious when everything is in chaos. They gravitate towards safe and conservative decisions; thus missing good opportunities in life. Sentimental and compassionate, cats wear their hearts on their sleeves. As a result of being empathetic, cats make great friends.
I can agree 100 percent with the last sentence of Cat Type-ing that cats make great friends. Indeed our cute cat, Miu Miu, is such a great friend……
she could well be the symbol of 2011 Lunar New Year as sometimes people ask whether Miu Miu is a Cat or a Rabbit? …. somehow Miu Miu our Cat looks like Rabbit …..
Happy and Prosperous Cat – Rabbit Year!
- American Chambers of Commerce in Vietnam