The Tet is the greatest fete in the calendar; it is the Annamese New Year. It takes place during the new moon in February, and extends over a period of ten days.
There is not a single native in Annam who does not celebrate this event ; however rich or however poor he may be, he will manage to break his
daily routine and take part in some sort of merry-making.
The preparations for this occasion are manifold, but chiefly of a religious character. All the graves must be tended, the dwellings thoroughly cleansed, especially around the altar, and the red papers with
black characters which adorn the inside and outside of the house must be renewed.
Money is imperatively necessary. At this season, therefore, the Annamese
collect any outstanding debts, drive hard bargains, or even steal, if the offence can be committed without detection. Every sapek is of value.
All the savings of the last few months, or maybe those stored up since the last Tet, are now expended some on gifts for the altar, some on new tunics and turbans, a certain amount on squibs and crackers, and all that remains on gambling. On the last day of the Tet the whole family will be penniless.
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Text: Gabrielle Vassal
On & off duty in Annam, London 1910
Photo: old photo from internet
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