How Vietnamese Students Celebrated Lunar New Year

A week early before Lunar New Year's Day, Vietnamese international students at HSE in Moscow celebrated this holiday.

How Vietnamese Students Celebrated Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year, also known as Tet in Vietnamese, is considered the biggest holiday in Vietnam. In fact, there is no specific date for this holiday as it is determined by the lunar calendar. This year, Lunar New Year's Day falls on January 22. To celebrate Tet, Vietnamese international students usually hold warm meetings. And 2023 is the 7th year Vietnamese students at HSE in Moscow organized a year-end party. This is an occasion for everyone to gather and share with each other about the past as well as exchange good wishes for the coming new year. So what is in this year's meeting?

There is a specially decorated photo booth in the event venue. Indeed, the organizers have been very successful when bringing the whole atmosphere of the Lunar New Year in Vietnam to Moscow. The first noteworthy thing is the background of the photo booth with two colors - yellow and red which are typical colors of Tet in Vietnam. According to Vietnamese culture, yellow symbolizes wealth and prosperity, while red is the color of warmth and luck. Therefore, during the Tet holidays, it is easy to see these two colors on the streets of Vietnam.

In addition, there are some branches of peach blossoms, a distinctive flower of Tet. There is an interesting legend of the peach blossom tree that explains why Vietnamese people love it a lot. Once upon a time in Vietnam, there was a peach blossom tree with unusually huge branches and shade covering a large area. There were two gods residing on this giant peach blossom tree. They root out evil spirits and help people in the area to have a peaceful and happy life. Terrified by the great power of the two gods, the ghosts and devils were also fearful of the peach tree. Just seeing the peach blossom branch, they immediately get scared and run away. However, on the last day of the year, like other gods, the two gods of a peach tree have to go to heaven to attend the Jade Emperor's audience. And the demons take the advantage of this time to lord it over people. 

In order to prevent the devils from harassing them, people have come up with the idea of breaking peach blossom branches and arranging them in vases. Since then, before the Lunar New Year’s day, every family has tried to take peach blossom branches and put them in the house to exorcise evil spirits. Today, peach branches still appear in every Vietnamese house on the occasion of Tet, but its meaning is far different from the old custom. Peach blossoms are now a sign of longevity, vitality, and youth. Its beauty has brought warmth to every home, sowing in everyone's heart joy, faith, love, and hope for a wonderful new year to come.

Remarkably, the traditional Vietnamese teapot and thermos were also brought into this small photo booth. The cup of tea represents the principle of "When you drink water, think of its source" – respect for the previous generation. In the Tet atmosphere, the cup of tea is like a rope connecting people closer. Drinking tea is a way to harmonize with heaven and earth on New Year's Day. On this occasion, Vietnamese families will buy the best quality teas to celebrate guests and the new year. Therefore, it is no exaggeration to say that drinking tea has become a custom of Vietnamese people during the New Year holidays.

2022 Recap Video and Champagne

As in previous years, 2023 has a special video of its own. However, this year's video is different from the previous ones. While the videos of previous years are merely wishes and hopes for a new year filled with joy and prosperity, this year's video also synthesizes the moments of all Vietnamese international students themselves in 2022. There are trips to other Russian cities, picnics in the park, and rambles on the streets of Moscow together. 

This is not the most perfect and well-organized video, but it is definitely one of the most memorable videos of the Vietnamese student community at HSE. Notably, the last photo is a moment of Tet in 2022, serving as a message: “Last year, we were together and created beautiful moments. Hopefully, this year and the years to come, we will never forget those ones”. After the video, the representative announced the start of the party by popping the champagne cork.

Traditional Dishes With Colorful Colors and Irresistible Scents

Party participants were treated to typical dishes on Tet holiday in Vietnam, such as banh chung, boiled chicken, fried spring rolls, and bamboo shoot soup... Among them, perhaps the most impressive dish is banh chung – a Vietnamese square sticky rice cake. Making a banh chung is not simple as a banh chung normally needs to be boiled for 8-10 hours. And it's even more difficult since in Russia there are no fresh phrynium leaves, an indispensable ingredient used to wrap banh chung. Surprisingly, though made in Russia, the banh chung in this feast is still full of ingredients and flavors. The cake has the gentle green color of phrynium leaves, the sweetness of glutinous rice, the beautiful aroma of green beans, and the richly flavorful taste of pork. All ingredients blend into a delectable dish and inevitably remind people of the Tet atmosphere in Vietnam.

The Vietnamese elderly often recall that in the past, there was no gas or electric stove. On New Year's Eve, every family lit a big fire in the middle of the yard and put a pot on it to boil banh chung. At that time, family members gathered around the pot, hand-wrapped banh chung, and put them in the pot. Nowadays, most families no longer have the habit of gathering around the hot pot of banh chung. But Tet is still the day when all family members get together. And when worshipping the ancestors, people still carefully choose the best cakes.

Lotto and New Year's Expectations

Tet would not be complete without entertainment activities. This year, the organizers chose the lotto as a game to bring people together. Lotto is a type of folklore entertainment, which flourished in the southwestern region of Vietnam in the 1980s. Before starting, the player will choose any number from 01 to 99. The game operator will then spin the lucky wheel to determine the third, second, first, and grand prize winners respectively. The winner will be the person whose number matches the game operator's number. At this party, the prizes were Lucky Money, which is a small amount of money contained in a red envelope as a wish for growth and success. 

The Vietnamese believe that if you are lucky at the beginning of the year, you will have good luck all year. Accordingly, Vietnamese people usually play entertaining games on Lunar New Year's day is not only a way to relax after a year of hard work, but also an expectation for a lucky new year. 

What Do Vietnamese International Students Say about The 2023 Tet?

Luong Thi Hai Yen
senior of the HSE Bachelor’s Programme in International Relations

– This is my fifth year in Russia and also my fifth year away from home. Because the Lunar New Year is not an official Russian holiday, I still have to go to school and cannot return to Vietnam to celebrate Tet with my family. Therefore, on every Tet like this, I feel rather sad because you know, Tet is an occasion of reunion. However, I also feel a little proud of myself. I realize how strong and fortunate I have been for the past 4 years as I have had the opportunity to experience many things in a foreign country on my own. I hope to travel to more places in Russia this year and experience more new things here.

Nguyen Quoc Phong
senior of the HSE Bachelor’s Programme in World Economy

– This year, I feel half happy and half sad. I am glad that next year I will be able to celebrate Tet with my family. And I am also sad because this is my last year to celebrate Tet in Russia. The past 4 years have been a beautiful journey for me. I have traveled to many cities in Russia and made new friends, not only Vietnamese friends but also Russians and friends from other countries. I am very much looking forward to the coming new year. I do not know what will happen in 2023, but I believe it will certainly be a great and memorable year.

Pham Hoang Anh
a first-year graduate student of the HSE Master's programme in International Management

– This year is my first year celebrating Tet in Russia. It is not as bad as I thought. Everyone is so enthusiastic that I do not feel too sad and lost. Although Tet in Russia is not as bustling as in Vietnam, but look, peach branches. It is really "Tet", isn't it? Moreover, banh chung is quite delicious. Before, I did not expect too much. People used to say that banh chung in Russia was not tasty because the pork filling was dry and bland. However, banh chung in this feast does make me very satisfied.

Text by

Pham Minh Nghia