The Vietnamese traditional lunar New Year Festival (Tet) this year will be very special as the whole world is fighting against the Covid-19 pandemic. The long way to the homeland to gather with family seems to be longer.

Ms. Pham Thu Hai in L’Aquila (Abruzzo, Italy): Sobbing at New Year’s Eve

I currently live with my family in L’Aquila in  Central Italy. The place is flanked by mountain range, like Da Lat Central Highland City in Vietnam. As Tet draws near, I burst into tears when someone talks about my homeland or when I see banh Chung (traditional Stocks rice cake), peach and ochna trees. 

Ms. Thu Hai, an oversea Vietnamese who is now living in Italia. 

Since settling down in Italy four years ago, we adapt quickly with the beautiful and quiet mountain life here. Everything went well until the last Tet when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, Italy is struggling with the pandemic and the economy is severely affected.

Up to now, the Italian government has controlled the outbreak well and the number of infected cases has dropped remarkably. My family, like others here, make an effort to overcome the difficulties, and through that the family tie becomes tighter.

But now on the occasion of Tet, we feel a terrible homesick as our homecoming  is delayed. I don’t know when I will be able to come back again. 

Ms. Hai makes an artificial peach tree to create the traditional Tet atmosphere at home. 

To reduce homesickness and preserve Vietnamese cultural identity, I always prepare Vietnamese food. At Tet, I try to create the traditional atmosphere with some traditional dishes such as Nem (fried spring rolls), gio (vietnamese pork sausage), among others. There is no peach in Italy so I make one as well.

On the Lunar New Year’s Eve, as usual, my family will invite some international students here to enjoy the food and celebrate the festival together. The community of overseas people is more united than ever before. 

I will also call to wish family and relatives the best for the New Year. I know that like me, they look fine but deep inside, they try not to cry. In a promotional video about Tet in Vietnam, my grandparents and parents show their eagerness to see their children gathering at Tet when they say: “we have everything ready, except them – our best gift for Tet”.

Mr. Nguyen Luong Bang – Tokyo, Japan: I miss Tet so much

It’s the second year Bang lives far away from his homeland- Vietnam.  

It will be the second Tet I have spent in a foreign country. These days, I’m suffering from homesickness when I see everyone is preparing for Tet in Vietnam through television. I remember when our whole family gathered to pack banh Chung, prepare traditional dishes to welcome the traditional New Year, visit local busy markets at Tet and especially see the traditional customs. Everyone was so excited, especially the children. Now some customs have vanished but Tet in our hometown is still very lively and joyful.

This time in Japan is not holiday, so we still have to work . Last year, I worked until 9:00 pm on New Year’s Eve. When I returned home, I counted every hour and every minute to the midnight – the important transition time between the old and new year to call my family and wish them all the best.

This year I had plan to return to Vietnam to celebrate Tet with my family but I had to cancel it due to the Covid-19. I prepare traditional dishes such as banh Chung and nem with some other Vietnamese but the ambiance is not the same as at home.  

Ms. Phan Thuy Duong – Paris, France: The heart toward homeland

Paris is quieter this time than other years due to the influence of the Covid-19. It has been eight years since I moved to France. Every two years, I visit home to celebrate Tet with my family but not this year because of the Covid-19.

Many oversea Vietnameses even manage to make Banh Chung by themselves on the occasion of Tet. 

I remember when in Vietnam, I usually bought many things for preparing for Tet like peaches and kumquats as well as visited and gave presents to my family. I also strolled the street and visited the flower markets to feel the Tet ambiance in Hanoi. Then on the New Year’s Eve, after making the offering ritual, the whole family enjoyed food together, cheered the drinks, and gave lucky money and best wishes to each other. These are unforgettable moments.

The Vietnamese community in Paris is quite large, so  Vietnamese foodstuffs are available. We often buy ingredients to make traditional dishes to create Tet atmosphere as well as for my kids to experience Vietnamese culture. I will take some days off from work and will call my family in Vietnam to say Happy New Year.

Although we cannot welcome Tet with our family, our heart is always toward our homeland with love and pride. Especially in this point of time, Vietnam has controlled the Covid-19 pandemic so well and earned the world’s admiration. This is really the pride of each of Vietnamese living abroad. I hope the pandemic will pass quickly so that I can visit home soon. I miss my fatherland, my country so much now.