Mar 30, 2018
Every year is the same, at the time when Tet is approaching, the first thing I do every morning is that asking my mom: "Whose house are we going to “ăn cúng” today?"
In some areas in Vietnam, it is explained that “ăn” means “eat”, “cúng” means “worship”. The simple explanation for “ăn cúng” is that going to a relative house, which is a place of worship, and having some food.
Between 25th and 30th of Tet holiday, my family often attend at least 1 to 2 occasions related to worship. Worshiping is the traditional activity of Vietnamese, especially the people in the countryside. There is usually a table in the front of a house on which is full of cakes, fruits, meat, wine and tea as the offerings. The ritual starts with incense being lightened and people pray to see off the old year, to celebrate the New Year and to welcome the soul of dead ancestors to come back to enjoy Tet holiday with their family.
An after-worshiping party (Credit to Pham Anh Minh)
This is also a chance for people to gather after a long working year. Every Tet holiday, those who work far away and the families who settle in the other places try to arrange the time to return to their hometown and attend a worship occasion. With my extended family, my grandparents have nine children, so on the occasion like that there are more than 20 people including their sons, daughters, nephews, grandchildren, cousins, aunts, uncle, wife or husband of nephew…
When gathering together to prepare for the food, people keep asking each other about their health and finance status in the old year while they continuously busily pick up vegetables, grind peppers, fry meat and cook soup with constant smiles on their faces. They also tease their younger nephew/cousin with some questions about their relationship: Why you are still single? Will you take your lover to our home and introduce with all the members this year?
For me, Tet is no need to be something considerably important, it’s just a cozy and funny atmosphere like this.
For the after-worshiping party, the host does not only invite the relatives to take part in but also the neighbors and friends. If you have a chance to come to my hometown in Quang Nam on Tet holiday, you will probably be satiated with food and get drunk because you are going to be invited to many houses with the repeatedly invitation “eat a bit, sip a few cups of wine or beer".
However, you will actually not just eat a bit, get yourself ready for a wide range of dishes, because there are always at least 10 dishes when you go to “ăn cúng”. Each place will have its typical food of their localities, but the main dishes of the most of worship place in Quang Nam is rice, fish, Indian taro or bitter melon soup cooked with pig bone. There will be never lack of boiled pork or tripe along with spicy fish sauce.
Some typical dishes in worshiping (Credit to Tram)
If you want to experience the noisiest and happiest atmosphere in Tet holiday, come and try to go “ăn cúng”. However, you shouldn’t choose the big cities, because the countryside such as Quang Nam my hometown is the best place to enjoy a traditional and meaningful worshiping.