Tag Archives: Vietnamese

Lunar New Year: Holiday


MT is of Vietnamese descent and discusses their experience with the Lunar New Years celebration growing up.


Growing up, I was always confused about why we celebrated Lunar New Year about a month after the actual year began. As it turns out, in ancient times, Asian countries revolved around the lunar calendar and consequently celebrated New years at the start of the lunar calendar. It was a time of celebration, with dances and endless foods, as well as rejoicing with family members from all over.

While the culture around the lunar new year is one of superstition, which I found pointless as a kid, I see the importance of it to my family as it is no different from faith. It’s a way of life that encourages honor and integrity. The notion that our ancestors come to celebrate lunar new years with us keeps us in high spirits, and on our best behavior. As I meet my family less and less due to new life situations, I find myself looking forward to the good fortunes of gathering together on Lunar New Year, catching up on each other’s lives, and blessing one another with wisdom.


MT discusses how Lunar New Year’s celebrations evolved from the lunar calendar used by ancient Asian nations, highlighting how important it is as a time for lavish celebrations that include dances, large quantities of food, and get-togethers with family. These customs have a strong cultural foundation because they are based on principles and ideals that are similar to those of faith, such as honor and integrity. The idea that ancestor spirits take part in the celebrations draws attention to the folklore element, establishing a feeling of continuity and appreciation for the past, which shapes behavior and promotes a sense of community. As MT becomes older, there is a clear understanding of these customs as fundamental cultural practices, highlighting the way that folklore functions as a living tradition that reinforces societal ethics and family values.

Tết Trung Thu: Festival


AV is of Vietnamese descent and dives into a festival native to his culture and how it has impacted his life.


When I was young, I eagerly awaited the Mid-Autumn Festival every year, or Tết Trung Thu in Vietnamese. Streets would be lit up with lanterns of all colors, and families would come together to celebrate the harvest season as well as the full moon. The lion dance, which I always found mesmerizing and exhilarating both for its novelty and its roots in ancient Chinese culture, was one particular highlight of this holiday.

    With age came an understanding of the festival’s underlying significance beyond mooncakes and lanterns. It is not only a time when we can give thanks for plentiful crops; it’s also an opportunity for individuals within communities to consider what they mean to one another about themselves and their environments during this bountiful period. This event holds dear in my heart because it represents unity among people who may otherwise never contact or interact with each other on any level – let alone in such large numbers – while facing difficult times together.

     Yet despite society having become more modernized over time, I strongly believe that traditions like Tết Trung Thu should be preserved at all costs. These customs serve as reminders of what connects us to our roots. Every autumnal equinox evening, as my family celebrates the Mid-Autumn Festival, I am filled with pride for being born into these customs that have been passed down through many generations before mine, as I have the privilege of continuing them.


AV shares his appreciation for the Mid-Autumn Festival (Tết Trung Thu) from a personal perspective, highlighting the cultural significance and community aspects that come along with the celebration. AV recalls childhood memories with the festival’s visual and performative elements like colorful lanterns and the lion dance, which are steeped in ancient traditions. Through time and maturity, AV shifts the understanding of the festival’s broader implications—recognizing it as a time for community introspection and unity, particularly in celebrating the harvest and reflecting on collective and individual identities within the environment.

Vietnamese Folk Speech

Tags: Folk Speech, Dites, Folk Sayings, Vietnamese


“Biết chết liền”

“If I knew, I’d die”

Informant Info

Race/Ethnicity: Vietnamese

Age: 56

Occupation: Business Owner

Residence: Northwest Arkansas, USA

Date of Performance: February 2024

Primary Language:Vietnamese

Other Language(s): English

Relationship: Stepfather


ND, the informant, was born in the South of Vietnam. He often uses this phrase when talking to his other Vietnamese friends about a piece of gossip.


“Biết chết liền” is another way of saying that “if I’d known, I would have died.” It is also a Vietnamese way of saying that you didn’t know about something. Vietnamese people have a very unique way of expressing themselves: their speech is typically lighthearted, dramatic, and wonderfully eccentric. Oftentimes when speaking amongst friends/ethnic familiars, they use dramatic and funny phrases to communicate.

Chả Giò (Fried Spring Rolls)

Main Piece:

Me: Tell me about Chả Giò or Vietnamese egg rolls.

AL: So, my parents’ recipe to it… I know it from my dad which I think he knows it from his sister, my aunt. I don’t know where she knows it from… We would make this for the restaurant that we own, and uh so what we would do is pre-peel the egg roll wrapper or the rice paper because it came in, essentially, like a sheet of paper but stuck together because it was cold or frozen. And so we would let it thaw and pre-peel it so that it would be easier to fill it… The filling consisted of shredded taro [root], shredded carrots, cooked pork, and clear rice noodles that were cooked already and seasoned with, like, pepper and salt and what not. And then it was mixed and then placed into the wrapper and then folded in a particular way…

Me: Kind of like a pinching. Keeps everything together.

AL: Almost like a burrito wrap. Almost. And you would seal it off with water, I believe. And uhm that would be your… raw egg roll, or Chả Giò. And then you would fry it for… For like 8 minutes… The sauce that it can be served with is nước mắm, uhm fish sauce… Or a mixed soy sauce for vegetarians… Usually, they’re either served at a restaurant or… At a party setting— of like a huge, huge tray of just—

Me: Huuuuge pile of egg rolls.

AL: A pile. And it would be kinda scary to look at but they were usually good, so…


An interview I had with my roommate in the Cale & Irani Apartments at USC Village. He is of Vietnamese descent. We often talk about certain food items from home and bond over them. Although he is vegetarian, he is most familiar with this pork recipe.


These can be made vegetarian, with shrimp, or with pork. I was familiar with these egg rolls and this recipe from my own mother, so it was good to reminisce with my roommate. The last time I had them was over Christmas break of 2021, and they remain one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes, far better and more authentic than ones you find in Oriental restaurants. I like the way my roommate describes it here, and it’s interesting how this folk recipe has been modernized, especially with me being from the South. My sister and I would use sweet chili sauce as compared to the traditional sauces, and we would even make them in the air fryer. My mom would also gift these in frozen batches to her friends on certain holidays, so this folk recipe and piece of our culture was shared throughout with our predominantly white, small town. This small cultural exchange through food alone can bring more appreciation and foster relationship between different communities.

Con Mèo in Vietnamese Superstitions

Main Text:

Me: Tell me about the superstition your family has around cats.

AL: Specifically, uhm my mom or other women— Vietnamese women that I’ve encountered… have this superstition of that there is this cat, Con Mèo, which translates to “Cat” in English… Essentially, this cat would kidnap children, so… it means for the children to stay close to their mothers…

Me: …Every single time Con Mèo was kind of brought up, would it be… kinda referred to as like a monster or some type of entity that would kidnap you, specifically?… Did you have a particular image associated with it? Or did you just see a cat?

AL: I just associated the entity as a cat… But somehow evil… And it’s usually referenced by my parents— by mom at like night. Mainly because it’s dark, and to like stay close… I would see this saying more in Vietnam due to how poorly lit the city is, and the suburbs or the countryside, compared to here which is much more safer and has a lot of lights…

Me: …What age do you think this kinda like started, and what age do you think this kinda stopped? Where your mother was like “You’re getting too old for this!” Or is it kinda like a little joke that you bring up every now and then? You know, how does that relate to your personal experience with cats now?

AL: This started when I was young, probably in Kindergarten… Six? Five?

Me: Yeah.

AL: …It’s not that she stopped saying that superstition at a specific age. It’s just— it occurs less. Like she sometimes says it… Like once in like a while, she’ll say it. Just kinda like, just as a fun joke. But I would never say it back because *shrugs* Eh. But my relationship with cats now… I like cats, so it didn’t really affect how I viewed them as monsters.


This was taken from a conversation with my roommate, in our bedroom at the Cale & Irani Apartments in USC Village.


This belief could reign from one of the oldest superstitions that black cats are considered bad luck. This is especially prevalent amongst Asian cultures, and I even saw this fear manifested as a general disliking towards cats by my Vietnamese mother. Cats in this context were used by the informant’s mother with him and his younger brother, to instill fear in them and keep them out of danger, especially at night. It is beliefs like these that lead to almost all children, having a universal fear of the dark—a fear that my roommate already had. However, his positive relationships with cats won out over his fear of the dark. Therefore, Con Mèo didn’t affect him that much.