Vietnamese Culture - A 1970's Perspective
                     copyright 1996, Vn-families

Issue #4. 1971 - The year of the Pig, by Van Ngan, Vietnam Bulletin, 
January 18, 1971.

This is a set of reprints from the Vietnam Bulletin, a weekly 
publication by the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington, DC, during the 
period from 1967 to 1975. The original articles were not copyrighted. 

We will run this column weekly until we run out of interesting cultural 
articles. 
Please direct all questions to trant@teleport.com
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Here is the proposed schedule of this column.

Issue #1:  Tet 1971 in Vietnam! by Phu Si, VB710118 - Jan 17, 1996
Issue #2:  The Unicorn dance at Tet, by Minh Tam, VB710118 -
           Jan 24, 1996.
Issue #3:  The origin of Tao Quan, the three kitchen gods, by
           George F. Schultz, VB710118 - Jan 31, 1996.
Issue #4:  1971 - The year of the Pig, by Van Ngan, VB710118 -
           Feb 7, 1996.
Issue #5   The Joy of "first writing of the new year", by Thuy Ngoc,
           VB710208- Feb 14, 1996
Issue #6:  Traditional Vietnamese male attire, by Van Ngan, VB710208 -
           Feb 21, 1996
          
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                  I971  THE YEAR OF THE PIG
                        By Van Ngan

Saigon (MF) January I, I971. Vietnam' s ever-active fortune tellers are 
now attempting to divine what lies ahead in the coming year, the last of 
the traditional I2-year cycle which will be known as the Year of the 
Pig. The pundits believe they see prosperity and possibly peace  over 
the next year. The prophecy book of Trang Trinh, a much-quoted source of 
Vietnamese lore, declares that "The dog wags his tail to greet the 
master while the pig groans with satisfaction after a good meal."  Thus 
the dog (I970) greeted signs of peace while the pig (I97I) will be able 
to enjoy prosperity.

Despite the animal's poor reputation in other nations, the pig is much 
respected, in Vietnam, being a source of food for most people. Chicken 
is the other common meat, and nearby every farmer owns a sow or two with 
broods of piglets in times of prosperity. It is the pig who earns extra 
cash for the farmer with rice the main source of family support. A 
farmer wealthy in pigs not only observes religious feasts properly but 
has earnings to buy the finer things for his family. Piggy banks of 
ceramic and plastic are common in Vietnam as symbols and receptacles for 
savings. Pigs figure prominently in the ancient customs of the 
Vietnamese. At the Tet (New Year) festivities, pigs are slaughtered and 
eaten. Any special occasion is marked by the roasting of a pig, 
including the traditional meal for those who come to pay their last 
respects to the dead in post-funeral ceremonies.

At wedding ceremonies, the bridegroom's family must prepare a roasted 
pig festooned with paper flowers in its ears and bright red sash down 
its back to present to the bride's family. This marriage pig is carried 
before the wedding cortege by attendants in special attire. A pig, 
either whole or just its head and tail, is frequently offered to one's 
ancestors as a sign of respect and memory. The head is presented to the 
most important person, for example, to a village chief, while the tail 
goes to the second most important person. A traditional feast may have 
as many as eleven different recipes of pig: boiled, roasted, hammed, 
pasted, seasoned with rare and perfumed vegetables. Even tripe and 
coagulated pig's blood are used in exotically prepared recipes. Pork is 
considered nourishing. Mothers eat pig's feet with lotus grains and rice 
to improve baby milk and wives will fry hog testicles with vegetables or 
rice to stimulate their husbands. Working men enjoy blood coagulated 
with salt and served with heavily seasoned vegetables, believing it 
refreshes human blood and regulates digestion.

Vietnamese, as do other peoples, refer to obese persons and the over-
sexed as pigs, but many fortune tellers claim persons with pig-like 
faces are harmless and sincere people. Tet New Year means a time of 
clearing up of debts and a balancing of accounts. It is the traditional 
time of year to set one's house in order and to prepare for the new year 
with a clean slate. Kitchens are cleaned and everyone attempts to start 
the new year with new clothing. For a nation at war for the past decade, 
may the Year of the Pig be a time of peace and prosperity for Vietnam.