Tet Celebration by Vietnamese Students Abroad: Sharing Sentiments and Showcasing Traditional Cuisine

Despite being unable to celebrate Tet at home with their loved ones, Vietnamese students found creative ways to commemorate the occasion.

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A Chance to Experience and Share the Vibrant Vietnamese Culture

22-year-old student Duong Tan Khang, who is currently studying at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, has celebrated Tet, the Lunar New Year, in the United States for two consecutive years. Despite being the only Vietnamese student on this campus, Khang has found solace in a diverse and vibrant community that comes together to celebrate the most important holiday in Vietnam.

Last year, Khang’s Tet preparations were rushed due to his recent arrival in the US. However, this time, he had the opportunity to showcase the richness of Vietnamese culture to his friends from various backgrounds. The Lunar New Year celebration became a beautiful amalgamation of traditions, stories, and culinary delights, fostering a sense of shared culture.

Duong Tan Khang (C) wearing an ao dai, celebrating the Lunar New Year with his friends from China, France, Malaysia, and the US. (Photo courtesy of Duong Tan Khang).

In addition to celebrating Tet, Khang and his fellow international students also invited friends who were unfamiliar with Lunar New Year traditions. Despite the language and cultural barriers, they felt connected as they exchanged stories and shared the intricacies of their respective celebrations, bridging the gap and fostering understanding.

Khang proudly showcased banh chung, a traditional Vietnamese dish, and described its significance and preparation, while his Chinese friends introduced him to the art of making pineapple tart – a cherished Chinese delicacy.

Tet provides an opportunity for Khang to share the richness of Vietnamese culture (Photo courtesy of Duong Tan Khang).

The collective celebration of Tet has not only deepened their appreciation for cultural diversity but has also fostered lasting connections. This Lunar New Year has been a celebration of traditions and a testament to the strength and richness that diversity brings to their lives.

Celebrating Tet with a Traditional Meal

Phung Dieu Huong, a 21-year-old international student in Japan, decided to create a special Tet celebration for herself this year. Despite having exams during Tet, Huong took the time to prepare a traditional meal for the Lunar New Year and sent a picture to her family in Vietnam.

Huong and her Vietnamese roommates preparing a traditional meal for Tet (Photo courtesy of Phung Dieu Huong).

On the morning of the 29th day of the Lunar New Year, Huong woke up early to buy chicken and vegetables before rushing to the kitchen to cook in time for the celebrations. Huong and her roommates visited the Vietnamese market in their city to gather all the necessary ingredients, such as banh chung and gio cha, as well as other delicious foods. The market was bustling with fellow Vietnamese preparing for the Tet holiday. Some traditional foods, like spring rolls and gio cha, were easily available at the market.

Huong’s flatmate had bought the banh chung ahead of time and kept it in the fridge for this special occasion. A few Vietnamese friends also joined the meal.

Huong spending time with her Vietnamese classmates, celebrating Tet (Photo courtesy of Phung Dieu Huong).

“This is the second year that I am celebrating Tet far from home. Next year, I will try my best to go back to Vietnam and be with my family. The feeling of excitement, warmth, and closeness with loved ones during this time of the year is what I miss the most,” shared Huong.

Huong also celebrated Tet with her Vietnamese classmates in their own way. As the Lunar New Year’s days in Japan were just normal days, they soon went back to their daily routines.

Creating a Festive Tet Atmosphere

Unable to return home, 21-year-old Nguyen Thi Lan, who is studying in Russia, decided to create a meaningful Tet celebration for herself. She gathered with other Vietnamese international students in the final days of the year.

Lan and her close friend in Russia spent time visiting tourist attractions in Moscow, where she is living. It was an opportunity for them to relieve stress after a long year and start the new year with joy and excitement. Additionally, it strengthened the bond between Lan and her Vietnamese friends.

Lan enjoys visiting tourist attractions in Moscow, Russia (Photo courtesy of Nguyen Thi Lan).

Lan took the opportunity to call her parents and wish them a happy Lunar New Year and good health. She also sought their support and heartfelt good luck wishes. The most important thing for Lan was being able to talk with her family and friends in Vietnam over the Tet holiday, even if they could only see each other through the phone screen. The feeling of Tet was present in the photos and video clips her friends sent to her.

“I was fortunate to have my friends and the Vietnamese community here in Russia to celebrate Tet with me, so I never felt alone. However, I still long to enjoy this special time back in my hometown, with the lively atmosphere of the Tet holiday,” shared Lan.

Having friends and the Vietnamese community in Russia to celebrate Tet helps Lan avoid feeling lonely (Photo courtesy of Nguyen Thi Lan).

“It may lack the familiar familial aura, but it’s an experience I’ll never forget. It taught me that no matter how far away you are from home, you don’t have to be alone if you hold your family and country close to your heart and appreciate how fortunate you are,” said Lan.

Phuong Nguyen