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.