The first wave of New Year in Hanoi

The first of January marks the start of a new year, but for many people it is also a prompt for celebration. For Vietnamese people, New Year’s Eve is a rather new concept from the 2000s decade. Vietnamese people usually start their new year according to the lunar calendar and not the Georgian calendar, so the second wave of new year actually starts in late January or early February, when many fun Vietnamese traditions and celebrations are observed.

The first wave of New Year has been considered a light celebration prior to the traditionally big celebration of the Lunar New Year. This smaller celebration only consists of sponsored shows and several music shows on T.V., which always signals the start of the month-long New Year’s celebration atmosphere to me.

The shows

Big corporate-sponsored shows are a hallmark of this celebration, like the Heineken New Year’s Eve countdown, with spectacular concerts and booming music that makes your heart thump to the beat. And do not forget the loud, enthusiastic, trendy crowds eager for the countdown – it is a cathartic chance to scream your lungs out after a long day at work since you’ll blend in with the crowd. People go out at night in their dazzling and fashionable looks to join the party. As the sun rises, they return home and continue with their daily lives, saving their rants and raves for their co-workers and friends the next day. The show was meant to be a one-time party, but the fun has only begun for the New Year’s celebrations.

One of the iconic streets in the downtown quarter, Hang Ma, is displaying the atmosphere of Tet with pretty decorations. | Photo by Vinh Nguyen

The streets

I was lucky enough to visit Hanoi in the late days of December 2019, when everyone is preparing for the New Year. The young people tend to look for what’s trending and what’s happening on the very first day of 2020. Meanwhile, their families at home are going through the list of assorted and exotic items to buy when the Lunar New Year comes. On those last days of 2019, the sun shines in the presence of the warm, humid air, which is a drastic contrast to Vancouver’s bitterly cold and rainy sky. The Hanoi streets are jammed with hundreds of motorcycles and cars as people head out to buy New Year’s gifts. It’s hard to go straight through the traffic but it’s still manageable if you can wiggle through the big cars.

A brilliant drink in cool Hanoi weather – Egg coffee. | Photo by Vinh Nguyen

You can really feel that Tet, the second wave of New Year’s, is coming as the streets are decorated with vibrant red banners, small New Year decorations that go on your kumquat tree or your Tet flowers like yellow Mai, Ochna, or Dao, peach flower. It really feels like a late Christmas for Vietnamese people in the eyes of a foreigner. Instead of pine trees, we buy kumquat trees and flowers and decorate them with tiny, red and yellow New Year banners. The chúc mừng năm mới, Happy New Year, phrase is seen throughout the streets as they’re filled with Tet decorations.

The treats and to-dos

Aside from the loud music shows, you could consider catching up with friends and distant relatives. It is a good time to catch up as a turbulent year is coming to an end and you have a lot to vent and rant. I suggest you do that with a hot cup of egg coffee under the humid, cool grey sky. My favorite egg coffee shop happens to be near the Old Quarter in Hanoi downtown area; their egg coffee is just sweet and warm enough for a smooth and comforting experience.

The end of the year and the start of a new one opens up so many occasions for conversations and winding down in general for many people in Hanoi. I’m sure that also applies worldwide but you just need a cup of warm egg coffee and walk down the streets of Hanoi at times like this to enjoy a different experience.