SP: Hi Kieu Tien! Could you tell us a little more about you?
Kieu Tien: of course. Let’s start off by saying I ‘m 22, which makes me the youngest in the agency! I started in January 2020 as an intern at Solutions. When it ended, I had to stay because I loved the agency, its vibe, environment, and I felt like I had more skills to bring to the table. So since then, I’ve been working as a Project Manager for SP Solutions.
SP: We are celebrating Lunar New Year with you on Tuesday. What does this celebration mean?
Kieu Tien: in Vietnam, it’s really the idea of a New Year, we try to get rid of all negativities the past year has brought us. So normally, families prepare for a whole month prior: they clean the houses, do a real “Spring cleaning” to erase bad aura and vibes. Plus, it is also a moment where we clean our ancestors' gravestones because we must honor them on that day. On New Year's Day, the whole family comes together and – mostly in Buddhist families - prays for their ancestors and some Gods. Every decoration or ornament has a meaning as well. The three days following days are off days, where we honor certain people on each day. Day one, is for the father, day two, is for the mother and day 3 is for the teachers. During these three days, we continue to pray and bring offers (food or some objects such as fake money) to our ancestors. There are also a lot of superstitions on those days. For example, we must be careful about the first person that enters the house after new year, because that person’s energy and status define the “rest of the year.”
SP: How do you celebrate Lunar New Year here in Belgium?
Kieu Tien: We come together as a family, cook, and wear our « Áo dài », the traditional robe that women wear on that day. It’s not a celebration of 3 days, nor is it covered in superstitions. We also celebrate the European New Year, so to me, this day is more about being with the family and enjoying a feast together! It’s a great moment to be reminded of and in touch with my culture of origin. I haven’t been able to celebrate it over in Vietnam, but I’ve heard the period before New Year is always the nicest in the cities. During Lunar New Year, everyone leaves to the countryside and the city streets are empty. It often confuses tourists when they don’t see anyone around (laughs).
SP: Could you explain the meaning of some of the objects you brought?
Kieu Tien: the red envelopes and money stand for luck, wealth and happiness.They are given to the children. All flowers and fruits that are chosen, have a specific meaning. Yellow flowers are immensely popular especially in the South of Vietnam and stand for prosperity. A dish that is always served, is Bánh tét or Bánh chưng. It is a sticky rice cake
The legend says that they were created when the king of Vietnam needed to find a successor to the throne. To become king, the candidates had to create the best meal for the king. One of the potential successors to the throne, was extremely poor and didn’t know how to impress the king with his limited supplies. One night, his dead mother came to him in a dream and told him to use sticky rice, as it was seen as the most important food on earth. And then, to fill it with pork, like a parent who would like to surprise its child with a small attention. So that’s when the Bánh tét or Bánh chưng were created. Bánh chưng is square shaped to stand for the earth (when people still believed it was flat) and the other Bánh tét is round to stand for the sky.
SP: What does it mean to you that we are celebrating this occasion with you at work?
Kieu Tien: I love it, I’m so excited! Even as I was going to sleep, I kept thinking how I’d best present my traditions. To me, it’s a wonderful way to debunk the misconception that Lunar New Year is only celebrated in China (Chinese New Year). It’s celebrated in a lot of other countries as well. I’m so happy and I eager to share my tradition!