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Tet away from home
Thursday,  2/7/2019, 16:28 

Tet away from home

By Thanh Thom

Vietnamese-Canadian Elise Dang poses for a photo with her husband and daughters – PHOTO: ELISE DANG

The Lunar New Year, or Tet, is a special occasion for overseas Vietnamese people to come back to their homeland, Vietnam, to spend a fulfilling holiday with their loved ones after a long year of study or work. However, for some reason, some have no other choice but to experience Tet away from home. In a recent interview with The Saigon Times via the Facebook Video Chat app, Elise Dang – a Vietnamese national residing in Canada – shares her experiences of Tet in the North American country.

The Saigon Times: Ms. Dang, could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

Elise Dang: May everyone have a prosperous new year! My name is Elise Dang. I am currently working as a research assistant for Mental Health Science in a public university in Canada. On the side I am a freelance translator/interpreter. I am originally from the northern province of Thai Nguyen, Vietnam.

So how many times have you spent Tet in Canada?

- I prefer not to call myself an “overseas” Vietnamese. I am still the person who thinks the way I always think, just sometimes in a different language, not my mother tongue. I am a Vietnamese-Canadian living in Canada since 2011. Therefore, this year marks the 8th time of me celebrating the Tet holiday, not in my homeland. Surrounding me is my husband, our two daughters and many friends who are now part of my community, my blood, my nationhood.

In this Tet, did you have the chance to be off from work?

- Tet normally doesn’t fall on weekends. This year, the first day of Lunar New Year is on Tuesday. Nobody has that day off automatically. It is, unfortunately, not an official holiday in Canada. I take work off that day. Actually, I take the whole week off as a holiday every single year to enjoy Tet like a Vietnamese person living back home.

What was the first thing you did on the first day of this Lunar New Year holiday?

- The very first mission I got completed on the first day of the Lunar New Year was shoveling the fresh snow. It is this time of the year that snow almost always hits us hard, as hard as it could, to remind us that we are still in the middle of the winter. But deep down we all know, the spring is coming.

What do you usually do during Tet?

- During Tet, we usually gather and make special dishes like spring rolls, Chung cake (square-shaped glutinous rice cake), pork cold meat, dried bamboo shoot soup…, you name it.

Is it difficult for you to make such dishes?

- Everything is available for you to buy. If you live in a big city, then you may find all the ingredients without any troubles. Somebody tells me that it is even easier to find such things here than in Dong Xuan Market (a traditional wet market in Hoan Kiem District of Hanoi). I live in a medium-sized city, so I don’t find it difficult to buy stuff I need to make those special dishes. The most difficult thing is finding the time to cook.

Do you find any differences and similarities between your Tet memories in Vietnam and your present Tet in the North American country?

- Yet I know I am missing something. Like a puzzle missing a piece that will never be a complete picture. There is no “Tet feeling” in the air, there is no perfume of Tet anywhere here in Canada. There is no peach blossom, cherry blossom or apricot blossom this time of the year. The warm touch of Tet greetings from my own family, relatives, friends, and even strangers on the street when you are out celebrating the New Year festival is something not existing here.

Life is a game, a long game with a variety of sequent experiences. There is no comparison among those. I consider myself a lucky one who has experiences doing this and that, here and there in some parts of my life. And, I enjoy every part of it to the most.

As I know, the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, on February 5, the first day of the Lunar New Year, sent a letter of greetings to the Vietnamese communities in Canada and around the world on the occasion of the Lunar New Year. So what do you feel about his letter?

- From my point of view, I highly respect what the Canadian Government has done for newcomers in general and for our Vietnamese communities in particular. Canada is a “cold climate country with warm heart and soul” that always opens its door to immigrants. The letter was very warm, not because it was from the PM but also addressed the change that we have been calling for over years. The Vietnamese communities play an important role in Canada’s modern history. The small contribution that we have been making to the society is well recognized every day.

Below is the statement of the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, on the Vietnamese New Year:

“Over the next few days, Vietnamese communities in Canada and around the world will celebrate Tết Nguyên Đán, the Lunar New Year.

Tết is a time to reflect on the past year, celebrate new beginnings, and look forward to the coming of spring. To welcome the Year of the Pig, families and friends will come together to enjoy special holiday foods and share best wishes for good fortune in the year to come.

The Vietnamese New Year is also a chance to recognize the significant contributions Vietnamese Canadians make to our country each day. Generations of Vietnamese Canadians have helped build a better, more inclusive Canada, and that’s as true today as ever.

On behalf of our family, Sophie and I wish everyone celebrating happiness, good fortune, and prosperity in the Year of the Pig.

Chúc mừng năm mới.”

 

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