Every year, I look forward to the week leading up to the Lunar New Year – Tet Nguyen Dan, or just Tet, as we call it in Vietnamese. Why? For the simple reason that I take time off to make some of my favorite traditional Viet foods. Many of us rush around these days, barely catching our breaths to meet deadlines, only to face new ones. Multitasking, I’ve learned, is overrated.
When Tet comes along, I shut down and shut out the world for a few days. Tune out and focus on cleaning, cooking, and celebrating. Vietnamese Tet is a low-key, family-oriented holiday. It's homey by nature and people love it. Tet is like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother's Day and Father's Day all wrapped up into one. Traditionally, people took off a month from work. Modern times don't allow for that and we all create our own new traditions.
My Tet ritual starts at Asian grocery stores. I try not to brave the weekend crowds at Chinese and Vietnamese markets and instead go there on a weekday. That way, I get to look at all the crazy sweets and snacks that are for sale for new year. They’re usually well positioned near the market’s entrance so you can’t miss them.