D: On the first day of New Year, you don’t sweep the floor. They believe that you’re gonna sweep away all of the good things– they don’t talk about luck, they talk about wealth, money. So you just keep it inside the house, or maybe you can gather it in one spot and leave it there. Until…maybe– because they celebrate on the first, second, and third [days]– those are the three main, then on the third day, you can take away the trash. Or, if you swept it outside, you can sweep it back in.
My informant is my father, who was born and raised in Vietnam. Vietnamese New Year is often a large celebration, which goes according to the Lunar calendar. In Vietnamese, New Year is called Tết, and is full of superstitions and traditional practices to ensure the following year will be filled with good luck and fortune. My father’s grandfather and mother thus performed this practice every New Year, however, my father does not believe in it as much. Since immigrating to the United States in the 1990s and having his own family, we have not performed this practice.
This is a transcription of a live conversation between my father and me. He often tells me stories about his life and past and was reminded of this story when I asked him about folk magic.
Though I was born in the United States, being the first generation of American-born children in my family, I was raised with many customs and traditions from Vietnam. Since I was young, Vietnamese New Year has always been a large celebration. Many other customs of the New Year have been continued after my parents’ generation immigrated, while others have not. It’s interesting to see which customs continued and which customs they stopped performing. It seems my grandmother and her generation hold onto certain superstitions much more than my parents and their generation. My father has always been one to not be very superstitious. Thinking of when he was a child, Vietnam was in the midst of war, and after, had to rebuild the country. During this time, financial insecurity was common. I can understand then, why this practice may have been performed more and the superstition believed more during that time when there was much uncertainty. Folk magic is often employed in such times of uncertainty. Specifically, this folk magic practice is homeopathic magic, where the act of sweeping mimics sweeping wealth out of your home (and your possession). Now that my family is not as worried about financial instability, the practice has not been continued.