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Spring, oh Spring! Posted by on Mar 15, 2021 in Culture, Events, Seasons, Vocabulary

Photo taken and used with permission from Kandle Dart

When we talk about the start of Spring season, or mùa Xuân in Vietnamese, it depends on where you are geographically. In the northern hemisphere, Spring 2021 will start on March 20. In Vietnam, people generally consider the start of mùa Xuân (Spring season) as the start of the Tết (Vietnamese New Year) celebration, which is the first day of January in the lunar calendar. It usually falls between the first or second week of February in the Gregorian calendar.

Mùa Xuân is not only the season of beautiful flowers, but also the festival season with all kinds of activities in Vietnam. If you plan to travel to Vietnam, this is the best season to travel, when the weather is not too hot and dry, especially in the south.

There are four seasons in northern Vietnam, but no such phases in the central and southern regions. There is either the rainy or dry season. I came from the south, and to me, Spring means festivals with many school days off to celebrate the new year. Summer means no school, Fall means back to school, and Winter means…year-end party after party, or preparation to celebrate the Western New Year and the Vietnamese New Year. It has nothing to do with the change of the season, because the year-round weather ranges from moderately hot to steamy hot. Temperatures in the low 70s Fahrenheit are the “winter cold” in the south. Regardless of changes in the temperature, or the official calendar season, you know it is the arrival of mùa Xuân in Vietnam when you see the spectacular blooms of hoa Đào (peach blossoms) in the north and hoa Mai (yellow blossoms or ochna integerrima) in the south.

Hoa Mai – Photo taken and used with permission from Kandle Dart

Hoa Mai in particular, has long been one of the most significant flowers in Vietnamese culture. It represents mùa Xuân. It is the symbol of resilience, elegance, and purity. This flower was the symbol on the military insignia of the Republic of Vietnam (1955-1975). It is also depicted as one of the four plants in the popular classic bộ tứ quý (four precious plant set) art set, and is interchangeable with peach blossoms.

In recent years, the Vietnamese are really into the collection of hoa Mai bonsai to display during the Vietnamese New Year’s celebration. People would brag about what kind and shape of hoa Mai plant that they got. It is the common conversation piece or the compliments you would get from visitors during New Year’s occasion. Whether it is the standard five petals, or a ten or more petals, single or double form, they all look pretty and carry special meaning to me. My father planted a couple of hoa Mai plants in his yard. I remembered he calculated what day to skillfully strip the leaves to trigger its full blooms on the first day of the new lunar year. If he did it successfully, my mother would believe that we would have good luck that year, and my father would receive praises from all of us, especially big, bright smiles from my mother.

Image by Tan Dau Hai from Pixabay

Like I mentioned from the beginning, besides the blooms of beautiful flowers and decent weather, Spring is fun with all kinds of cultural festivals such as the Hương Pagoda festival, the Hung Kings’ Temple festival, the Bà Đen Mountain Temple festival, Đồ Sơn festival, etc. It is even more lively watching beautiful ladies walking in colorful, traditional tunic dresses (áo dài) in this season to temples, or to parks for photo shoots.

High on my bucket list is to spend an entire month experiencing the true Spring season in the north and attending all of the regional unique cultural festivals there. Wherever you are, let’s raise a glass of rice wine and mừng Xuân! (celebrate Spring).

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