The following blog comes from one of our students and was originally published in an issue of Hilltopics, 2019.
Tet is a very important Vietnamese holiday that students of Saint Lawrence have been waiting for. The Lunar New Year, also called Tet, started on February 5th this year. It’s a very important holiday that is celebrated throughout the world. Each year a different animal of the Zodiac is honored and celebrated, and this year marks the Year of the Earth Pig.
It’s pretty common to refer this celebration as the Chinese New Year, but in fact, Lunar New Years is celebrated not just in China. It is celebrated in many other countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, Cambodia, and the Philippines. Tet is a term that Vietnamese use to refer this remarkable celebration, while Koreans call it Seollal. The holiday isn’t just celebrated in Asian countries; it is celebrated in places throughout the world like America. The festive occasion is famously punctuated by numerous celebrations, concerts, parades, and parties, usually lasting over the weekend and sometimes the celebration goes on much longer, depending on the country.
If somebody were to experience this celebration, they would see one dominant color, red. Red, in many countries, means good fortune or good luck for the year. It is common for people to wear red clothes, and buildings to be decorated with red flags and banners, red lanterns hanging from them. Every party tries to incorporate as much red as possible to signify the good fortune for the coming year.
Some of the common foods during Tet include rice cakes, japchae (Korean noodles), gio cha (Vietnamese sausage), and many more. A lot of students at Saint Lawrence would probably talk about the food if asked about the Lunar New Year, but it’s more than just the food. Another tradition during the festival is the distribution of red envelopes by the elders, called li xi. These envelopes are given to people as a sign of good luck for the coming year. The envelopes are typically filled with money. The envelopes are more than just a kind gift; it is also traditionally believed to ward off evil spirits.
Every year, Saint Lawrence Seminary celebrates Tet. Each year some of the Vietnamese parents come to the Hill, take over the kitchen and prepare traditional Vietnamese food for the student body. Some students even helped out preparing the food. “It was a great opportunity to enjoy my food from my hometown and share with my beloved brothers,” says junior Hyeonyu Kim, one of the cooks who prepared dinner for Seollal. Traditionally after the meal, all the students and their parents went to the chapel for a special evening prayer session. There they witness the Dragon Dance. This special dance is performed in many Asian cultures around the world. It has been performed for thousands of years, not only for Tet, but also in weddings and many other types of celebrations. After the prayer session and the Dragon Dance, the evening ended with fireworks at the top of the upper ball diamond.
Tet is a very important Asian celebration. It’s a time of joy and happiness, but also a time to look forward to the coming year.
St. Lawrence Seminary is an all boys Catholic boarding school located in Mt. Calvary, Wisconsin. We welcome students from Minnesota, Illinois and across the United States. Inspired by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the example of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Lawrence Seminary provides a residential college preparatory education in a living Catholic community nurturing mature, well-rounded men of faith. See if St. Lawrence is right for you and your son.