The atmosphere of the traditional Lunar New Year festival (Tet) is overwhelming in the house of the Vietnamese Students Association in Hawaii.
Around 13,000 Vietnamese students and pupils are studying in the US. Although they live far from their homeland, they are always looking toward their motherland, especially during the Tet holiday.
When talking about Hawaii, people think of a remote island with sunlight and wind. However, when visiting the OV Association house here on the New Year, guests feel warm in their hearts.
Leaving behind the hurried rhythm of life in Honolulu and their busy work schedules, OV Association members come together to prepare everything to celebrate Tet like when they are at home.
Pham Quang Minh, the association’s President, says to have a warm Tet, the association assigns preparation tasks to each member by Christmas. They make “Happy New Year” posters, hang the national flag and prepare a tray of five fruits. This year they will have an art performance and cook traditional dishes.
Ho Manh Giang, a member of the Pako ethnic minority group who is pursuing his MA degree in Hawaii, says this is the second year he welcomed Tet far from home. Without firewood, they boil Chung cake by electric cooker. “I will never forget, while waiting for the Chung cake to cook, we shared our happiness and sadness with each other. We felt warm in our hearts and eased our homesickness,” Giang says.
Nguyen Phuong Thanh, a teacher of Tran Hung Dao Secondary School in the central highland province of Gia Lai who is also studying for her MA degree in Hawaii, shares her warm feeling when enjoying traditional food with friends. She says, “Boys pick coconuts and girls make coconut jam. Foreign friends are very impressed by Tet preparation and admire Vietnamese students’ spirit towards their homeland.”
National spirit is shown through decorations. The altar has all the flavours of Tet with a tray of five fruits, Chung cakes, Tet cakes and a branch of peach flowers, as well as traditional foods including pork-pie, dried bamboo shoots cooked with pork trotters, spring rolls and sweet soup.
Chau Soryari, an ethnic Khmer from An Giang province, says this is the first time he welcomed Tet far from home. “I feel like I am living in a big Vietnamese family, which brings me a warm and happy Tet,” Chau says.
Ly Thi Thanh Ha from Tuyen Quang province who is studying archaeology expressed her happiness at enjoying Tet with the OV Association. She says, “I feel warmer to enjoy Tet with other Vietnamese friends, to share happiness and sadness with them and encourage each other to study harder and better serve the nation. We are always looking toward the homeland,” Ha says.
Tran Van Hoi from Dong Thap province has not celebrated Tet with his wife and children for two years. He said to himself that he will study hard to quickly return home.
Phuong Thanh from Ben Tre province feels that she is celebrating Tet at home. “Through VOV Online I convey my best wishes to my relatives, friends and colleagues. I hope that all Vietnamese people have a happy Tet and the nation is peaceful and more prosperous,” Thanh says.
Each of the 100 students studying in Hawaii have different feelings, but they share a common sense of missing the homeland.
Dinh Ngoc Thai, representing Vietnamese people working and studying in Hawaii, says, “Through VOV Online I want to convey my best wishes to all Vietnamese people at home and abroad, as well as soldiers stationed at sea and on islands. I hope they will fulfill their tasks to maintain sea and island security, as well as national sovereignty.”