Happy New Year from Hoi An! May we all have a happy, healthy, peaceful Year of the Dragon. Apricot bushes with their beautiful yellow blossoms are in flower at this time every year. Hoa mai – apricot flowers – are a reminder that Tết has arrived.
The Bà Lê market is close to my home; I do much of my shopping along this market street. Tomorrow is the lunar new year’s eve, and today was the final day to shop before the big holiday. By late morning when this shot was taken, the crowd had already begun to thin out, and by mid-afternoon most of the vendors would be closed up. Tomorrow, there will be a few stands selling their wares at much higher prices than usual, but most of the shops and stands will be closed, in this market, in Hoi An, and for that matter, throughout Vietnam. Tết is definitely holiday number one in Vietnam.
Today, the street was lined with people selling flowers, both various kinds of cut flowers, and some flowering plants in pots. These flowers are beautiful, but not purchased as decoration. They are part of the worship that will take place on the first day of the new year (this Saturday) and at other times during the holiday. My partner, Minh, uses the English word “worship” to describe the activities of Vietnamese families on the first day of Tết. In fact, this day is one of the occasions when families pay respects to their ancestors. In Vietnamese, the expression is cúng tổ tiên. The word “cúng” can certainly be translated “worship,” but the English word comes loaded down with considerable Judeo-Christian baggage that has little to do with Vietnamese practices. I personally prefer “pay respects to” or “honor” ancestors to describe what Vietnamese do on Tết and at other times of the year, though I have no doubt there are people who will disagree with this interpretation.
In any case, many of the market’s transactions consisted of the sales of flowers.
Not everything was flowers. This man is loading his cart with coconuts for delivery to a seller who will make coconut milk drinks for shoppers.
Finally, I am guessing this woman is done with her shopping and thinking, “Let me out of here.” That is certainly what I was thinking by the time I took this shot.
Yesterday was the first full moon of the new lunar year, and the final day of the traditional Tết celebration in Vietnam. This small shrine near my home was decorated with flowers for Tết.
Chúc mừng năm mới!
It’s New Year’s Eve – tomorrow is the first day of the lunar new year. Tonight, the Tết celebration is well under way in Vietnam. Earlier today, the Hoi An market was crowded with people buying last minute food and flowers for holiday rituals.
The Lion Dance comes to Hoi An for Vietnam’s celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival. Troupes of dancers tour the city’s restaurants and public spaces. Restaurants pay to book dance troupes. It takes a lot of time and effort to prepare for this – a group of dancers practiced near my home every night for a month or so before the festival. I suspect the young performers earn a tidy sum during the holiday. The troupe that is performing in the restaurant I visited made several dozen appearances during the three day festival. These photos are from three days ago – I could have been better organized with this post.
Vietnamese decorate their homes with various kinds of plants and flowers during the celebration of Tết, the lunar new year. Today is new year’s eve (January 27) and yesterday was a madhouse at the temporary market to sell Tết decorations. This guy is all set with his rather small orange tree lashed to the back of his bike for the drive home. While this man is bringing his own decoration home, there was an army of delivery men carting away trees and plants often much larger than this one on the backs of motorbikes. There are some larger orange trees and more buyers in the background. Unfortunately, the fruit on these trees is for decoration, not eating. I’m told the trees are sprayed and pumped up with chemicals to keep the fruit small while the trees continue to grow. Definitely not for eating. Alas.
October 1 is China’s National Day commemorating the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949. Nowadays National Day begins the seven day Golden Week holiday during which Chinese take off en masse to visit the country’s historical and scenic attractions. Xinhua, the government controlled and run wire service, reports that 34.25 million people visited China’s 119 major tourist attractions (China’s tourism industry reaps golden harvest). A bit of arithmetic reveals that an average of 287,800 people visited each of these attractions during the holiday week. That’s an average of 41,000 people a day. In fact Xinhua reports that on October 2 186,000 people passed through the Forbidden City, historically the home of Chinese emperors in the center of Beijing.
By way of contrast, the average number of daily visitors to several US National Parks and Monuments during July 2011 (the peak month for each of these locales) came to 29,258 for Yellowstone, 23,991 for Rocky Mountain National Park, 22,727 for Yosemite, 21,124 for the Grand Canyon, 17,862 for the Statue of Liberty and 2,470 for the Washington Monument.
In fact virtually any place remotely appealing or interesting in China is inundated with people during the Golden Week. I used the holiday as an opportunity to practice crowd photography and read an interesting book. It is not a week to travel. Most of my expatriate friends and quite a few Chinese friends feel the same way.
One of the reasons so many Chinese travel during this holiday is because they have so few other opportunities to do so. Many Chinese companies do not give personal vacation time to employees. Huawei where I worked for two and a half years is fairly typical. Chinese staff have off China’s ten public holidays each year (though they are required to work the last Saturday of every month, in effect giving back to the company the time off for holidays). The company offers no vacation benefit. Employees can petition supervisors for leave for personal leave time, but taking more than a few days is frowned upon. Some Chinese companies do give a week or two of vacation time, but it is common for employees never to apply to take the time. Chinese friends have told me that management often expects employees not to take their vacation time. The benefit is window dressing only. Even Chinese working for foreign companies in China have told me they have never applied to take the paid vacation time they are entitled to by contract. Holidays with Chinese characteristics.