Vietnam celebrates the New Year 2020, from the 23rd to the 29th of January. A thing of curiosity is, the temples and pagodas are also scenarios for the meditation and mental serenity for petitioning personal and familial well-being. 

A Vietnamese person inherits the long religious tradition of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism; moreover, he connects mythology and nature. His gods descend from the skies on the eve of the New Year to revisit the earthly affairs but the bad spirits also roam about. And even if the Christians would be a minority in town, they also pray to their God in the Tet. 

Sister Duyen Anh shows some photos and relates to us how they prepare in the convents. She, a Dominican religious of St. Rose of Lima, took charge of the floral decoration during the holding of the General Chapter of the Order of Preachers in Vietnam (July, 2019).

The feast of the Lunar New Year- Tet Nguyen Dan- marks the first day of Spring ( Hoi Xuan). For this end, the flowers are more beautiful and religious: “neither Solomon with all his glory was dressed like one of the lilies of the field.” (cfr.Mt 6, 29). It is worth noting, the lotus flower is the national symbol, preferably pink. 

Sister Duyen Anh tells us that the sisters clean their convent; this rite is repeated in other religious communities to welcome the New Year. “ I am happy,” she says,”because I already finished cleaning. There are many flowers. And I will also visit my family during my vacations. We are 5 siblings; I am the youngest, the others are married, and my parents are more than 60 years old.

“With the photos, she also explains to us what the flower markets sell in the New Year. In the north, Hoa Dao, the emblematic flower is peach, blooms pink, and in the south the Hoa Mai, (the yellow flower of apricot). I live in the south, “clarifies Duyen. Naturally, each flower has a significance, for example, decorating the living rooms with kumquat trees to bring forth fertility and abundance. The families put a bamboo with a handkerchief (the color depends upon the region) as a sign of good luck. By the way, remember: “the building of the Seminary of San Jose in Bien Hoa, has bamboo decorations to represent the Christians, who despite the storms have doubled but have never broken. ”

In an impressive photo, she shows us pots on high heat cooking rice cake or Banh Chung. The table is a feast of encounter, the evil spirits are already very far, the diners came from afar, the catechists and collaborators, the sisters and the priests form a big family united to welcome the New Year. 

Sister Duyen Anh says: “the vase can be the Church, I myself even small, to contain the image of God.” To be utilized in the vases of Tet are: kumquat, bonsais, chrysanthemums, celosias, gladiolos, begonias, dahlias, etc. “ I love the color of the flowers like the thirsty servant of a fresh stream. I am a friend of the flowers, creatures of God, the non-verbal language of the love of God. With the flowers, the liturgy is more solemn, lively and glorious.

“ Everything that germinates on earth, bless the Lord, sing to Him, exalt Him forever.”( Daniel, 3, 76). That was the first lesson for me at the start of my work in the General Chapter of Bien Hoa. ( Interview, 11 September, 2019).

Finally, God gifts us with beauty and does not bring bad spirits. We pluck the flowers but not their beauty. Then, to bathe our souls, we need light and color for our lives.

by Javier ABANTO
Traslation: Belen L. Tangco

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