PEI

How P.E.I.'s Vietnamese community is keeping traditions alive in the new year

Hundreds will gather in downtown Charlottetown next Saturday to celebrate the Vietnamese New Year, but the preparation work will begin in the coming days.

‘Otherwise they will start forgetting’

Vietnamese New Year traditions include giving children lucky money in special envelopes. (Shutterstock)

Hundreds will gather in downtown Charlottetown next Saturday to celebrate the Vietnamese New Year, but the preparation work will begin in the coming days.

The growth of the celebration has been huge since the 2016 New Year, known as Tet in Vietnam, in Elaine Nguyen's basement. Then a few friends had a potluck and sang karaoke. Nguyen, now secretary of the Vietnamese Association of P.E.I., said the community is both growing and coming together.

"We found each other," she said. There were about 100 people in a church basement for the second celebration.

"Then the third year we have about 120 people. And the fourth year we had 400 people attending. Well, our celebration this year we hope would be around 500 people."

Preparations for the coming event include the making of sticky rice cakes that can take 12 to 15 hours to cook, a deep cleaning of the house, and throwing away any worn out items.

Preventing memories from fading

Nguyen will also share stories and traditions of Tet with her children. For example, the Vietnamese share a tradition with northern British people that the nature of the first visitor of the New Year can bring bad or good luck. The Vietnamese, however, have devised a way of cheating fate.

"Just to be safe the owner of the house will leave the house a few minutes before 12:00 a.m.," Nguyen said.

'My understanding of Tet is already fading,' says Elaine Nguyen. (Richie Bulger/CBC)

"Then when the clock strikes midnight he will step into the house to prevent the first person entering the house."

Nguyen said it is important to share these traditions with her children.

"What kind of food you should eat or drinks, what you should not do during Tet, what you shouldn't say during Tet. Otherwise they will start forgetting," she said.

"My understanding of Tet is already fading a lot. So I try to keep whatever I can remember for my children."

The Vietnamese community will come together to celebrate the Lunar New Year at the Delta Prince Edward Feb. 1 in an invitation-only event.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Island Morning

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