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

Issue #1. Tet 1971 in Vietnam! by Phu Si, Vietnam Bulletin, January 18, 

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 
Please direct all questions to [email protected]
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.
Issue #5   The Joy of "first writing of the new year", by Thuy Ngoc,
Issue #6:  Traditional Vietnamese male attire, by Van Ngan, VB710208
Issue #7:  The legend of Princess Lieu Hanh, George F. Schultz, VB710215 
Issue #8:  The dialogue on Mount Na-Son, George F. Schultz, VB710222
Issue #9:  The secret housewife, George F. Schultz, VB710301
Issue #10: The golden axe, George F. Schultz, VB710308
Issue #11: Golden age of Viet Nam under the Hung Kings, Pham Tung, 
The code next to the author name refers to the publication, VB = Vietnam 
Bulletin, TAS = The Asian Student, and the publication date: year, 
month, day.         
                          Column Foreword

In this column, I will present a number of articles from the early 70's. 
The current line-up comes mostly from the Vietnam Bulletin, a weekly 
publication of the RVN Embassy in Washington, DC. Thus, some of these 
will invariably contain political messages. I debated whether to edit 
these passages out or not. In the end I decided to leave them in, since 
they are a reflection of the times. To the younger the generation, I 
hope that you will read these passages and understand what our people 
have to endure during those years and I hope that you will learn from 
it. It is my sincere hope that we do not enter in a debate on this forum 
on these passages. I would rather see you spend the effort to dig out 
old publication with significant cultural/social contents to share with 
the other members. Thus, I do not intend to answer any question raised 
about any short political passages that will invariably appear on this 
column from time to time.

My criterion for this column is that, if the content is more than 75% 
cultural, I will publish it. As mature professionals, we should be able 
to handle the political 25%, if there at all. In the current line up 
only this first article and issue #11 have a couple of paragraphs that 
could be considered political.

If any reader has publications from the 60's and 70's on Vietnamese 
culture and would like to contribute to this column, please contact me 
at [email protected]. As long as more than 75% of the content is 
cultural/social, I am in favor of publishing.

                           TET I971 IN VIETNAM! 
                               By Phu Si

Saigon (MF) - When the clock strikes midnight on January 27th, the first 
day of the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, millions of Vietnamese will 
exchange toasts of good wishes for the coming year of the Hog.

The greetings are familiar and always concern the well-being of the 
family, the focal point of Vietnamese life. "May I wish you," so goes 
the toast to the head of the family, "nothing but prosperity in your 
endeavours. May you have a son at the beginning of this year and a 
daughter at the end. May your fortunes increase tenfold and may peace 
and happiness be with you and your family..."

"Tet Nguyen Dan" or the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, begins this year on 
midnight January 27th, I971 and the festivities will last three days. 
The traditional Vietnamese calendar runs in cycles of twelve years. A 
genie, in the form of an animal figure, dominates each year. They are, 
in the following order: Ty (mouse); Suu (buffalo); Dan (tiger); Mao 
(cat); Thin (dragon); Ty (snake); Ngo (horse); Mui (goat); Than 
(monkey); Dau (cock); Tuat (dog); and Hoi (hog). As the old year gives 
way to the new, the ruling genie quietly bows out to the next. This 
coming year will be the year of the Hog.

On Tet, the home is brightly lit and the family altar resplendent with 
flowers, fruits, cakes and sweets to welcome the new genie on this 
festive night. It used to be that firecrackers erupted on the exact 
moment of transition, as is the custom in many western countries. In 
Vietnam, they serve an additional purpose -- to chase out the evil 
spirit -- but since the infamous Tet attack of three years ago, the use 
of firecrackers was banned by the authorities.

At dawn, the family sits down to a banquet in honour of the ancestors to 
whom they pay their respects by ritual bows before the family shrine. 
When the meal is finished, it's time to dress in one's best fineries and 
meet the parents and grand-parents to wish them luck and happiness in 
the coming year. The youngsters especially look forward to this ceremony 
as each one of them receives a small sum of money wrapped in the 
traditional "red envelope".

It is an ancient belief in Vietnam that fortune or misfortune which 
occurs on New Year's Day sets the pattern for the rest of the year. The 
morning of Tet is of particular importance. The character of the first 
visitor to the home will leave his imprint on the family for the rest of 
the year. This ancient custom is called "Xong Nha". If the visitor is 
good, kind and honest, the family is in luck. But if he or she happens 
to be a rather shady type, the year is off to a bad start. It is not 
unusual in many homes to firmly lock the gates and wait until a few 
minutes after midnight to admit a favoured friend as the "first guest in 
the New Year" who, in the meantime, has been walking around the block, 
waiting for his cue to make his "guest appearance".
Another important aspect of Tet is the family visit to the Pagoda or 
Church to pray for good fortune and happiness. The remainder of the 
holidays is filled with visits to friends and relatives, family games 
and just relaxation. In the countryside the ceremonies include a tilling 
event to insure a plentiful harvest after the spring p lant ing.

And so once again, as this Tet event is about to take place, the people 
of Vietnam hope and pray to see an early end to the enemy's activities 
in this unhappy land. Mothers pray that their sons will return safe and 
sound. Wives pray that their husbands will finally shed their uniforms 
and remain with the family at home. The people of our nation, tired and 
weary from incessant war, destruction and bloodshed, once again hope 
that this Tet may bring peace. They hope the invaders from the North 
will finally realize that guns, bullets and terror will never succeed in 
forcing upon the South Vietnamese an alien form of rule which rejects 
the culture, customs and traditions of our land. Cunning, treachery, 
deceit and violence marked Hanoi's role in the I968 Tet offensive, a 
tragedy which will be long remembered, especially by the citizens of the 
city of Hue.

Our people deserve good fortune in the coming year of the Hog. Whether 
they will get it, depends to a large extent upon the actions of the 
Hanoi regime. If the enemy is willing to let the people of South Vietnam 
determine their own destiny -- in peace -- the coming year will, indeed, 
be a happy one. If not, our people will continue to resist, as they have 
been doing for more than a decade. For if nothing else, the past year of 
the Dog has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the people of South 
Vietnam are willing, able and determined to keep on fighting for their 
freedom and independence until such time the enemy from the North 
withdraws and decides to leave South Vietnam alone.