As with most of the world’s favourite holidays, Lunar New Year in Vietnam is all about the preparation. From the eldest member of the family down to the littlest toddler, everyone has a role to play in Vietnam’s biggest and most beloved annual festival.
In the weeks leading up to the Tet holiday, mothers descend on markets and stores searching for delicious produce, new clothes, fruit, cookies boxes and all the treats traditionally enjoyed on the first day of the new year. Fathers lay out pristine bills of ‘lucky money’ to be dispensed in ornate red and gold envelops. Children practice songs they will perform for visiting relatives; and grandparents diligently water the orange trees, potted bamboo and brightly coloured blossoms that adorn the home’s doorstep.
Aboard the Emeraude in beautiful Halong Bay, we’re getting ready with a ‘Year of the Horse 2014’ cruise programme that celebrates the Tet essentials while showing visitors around this spectacular corner of the country.
An orange tree, carefully chosen for its many fruits, will be set up in our restaurant five days before the holiday commences. Red lanterns will hang from the ceilings.
On the 30th of January, after the guided excursions to Sung Sot Grotto and the Halong Pearl Farm, everyone is invited for complimentary Tet sun downers and canapés, before heading downstairs to a sumptuous Tet Buffet Dinner in the restaurant. Gourmet European dishes will play second fiddle to a mouth-watering line up of Vietnamese delicacies. Look out for grilled beef salad with lemongrass, a Pho soup station, Halong seafood specials and of course, a selection of the best traditional cakes.
Our passengers won’t see this, but just before the new year begins, our captain and top members of the crew go to the ship’s wheelhouse for a short ceremony. The captain will set up offerings of rice cakes and fruit on the altar, give thanks for a safe year, and pray for blessings in the year to come. Each year this ceremony is held in the wheelhouse, as it’s considered the most important part of the ship.
Afterwards it’s up to the sundeck, where we plan to party the night away with a live jazz duo and a midnight countdown to the first moments of the Year of the Horse. For those who are especially keen to begin the new year with good vibes, we’re hosting a tai chi session on the deck at sunrise the following morning.
For many visitors, the Tet Festival is a unique opportunity to observe long-held customs that are very close to the hearts of the local people. Wherever you may be on the evening of Jan. 30, 2014, we at the Emeraude wish you many memorable adventures and joyful moments in the Year of the Horse!