Lunar New Year

Posted by Ellen

This cheerful little snake is welcoming us to Tết, the Vietnamese version of Asian lunar new year festivities, which will be celebrated this coming Sunday in Philadelphia among many other places. What the snake is saying, according to Google's translator, is "Sing along, Men of targeted Heritage."

In 1968, at the height of what I've been told was called "the American war" by many people in Vietnam, the governments of both North and South Vietnam announced two-day cease-fires for Tết. But shortly after midnight on the first day of Tết, the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong launched more than a hundred surprise attacks on American and South Vietnamese forces and on cities and villages throughout South Vietnam. More than 80,000 troops were involved in the attacks, and there was fighting even in Saigon. The objective was to demoralize South Vietnamese soldiers and show Communist strength literally in every corner of the land; over the next few weeks, however, U.S. forces regained control of virtually all the territory contested in the Tết offensive, and the war dragged on for seven more years.

One consequence (among many) of the eventual North Vietnamese victory in the war was that the South Vietnamese provinces adopted the same time zone and lunar calendar as the North Vietnamese, thus ensuring that everyone celebrated Tết at the same time. Most years, including this one, the Chinese New Year also falls on the same date as Tết, though time-zone differences across Asia occasionally result in different clebration dates.