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Economy forces belt-tightening for Vietnam new year
Publication Date : 08-02-2013
Two days before Tet, the family of Nguyen Thi Hoa in Hanoi's Trung Tu neighbourhood hasn’t even begun to clean and decorate the house.
She still wonders if she will be able to afford a small peach blossom branch.
High inflation and the prolonged economic slowdown in recent years have cut into her family’s income and purchasing power, leaving her with far less money this year to spend on the holiday.
“In the past, we used to buy both a peach tree and a kumquat tree,” Hoa said. “This year will be different. It is now a luxury for us to pay 1 million dong (about US$50) for plants just to decorate the house for a week. I’d prefer to use the money to buy milk for my children.”
Hoa also decided this year to make some traditional Tet foods herself rather than buy them readymade, including gio lua (pork bologna) and banh chung (sticky rice square cake).
Hoa’s family is not an exception. Many families in Hanoi and throughout the country are being forced to tighten their belts and enjoy more modest celebrations.
One month before Tet, Le Thi Thanh from Ha Noi’s Hoan Kiem District began shopping around for discounts on clothing.
“New clothes are important for Tet. Luckily, I was able buy some nice new clothes for myself, my children and my nieces fairly cheap,” Thanh said.
Last weekend, during the Ong Cong (Land Genie) and Ong Tao (the Kitchen God) Festival, Thanh’s family also didn’t buy any goldfish to release into a lake or river. In the Vietnamese belief, these gods ride carp to heaven to pray to Ngoc Hoang (the Jade Emperor) for luck, prosperity and happiness for the members of the household.
“One goldfish costs 25,000 dong, so it seemed kind of wasteful,” said Thanh.
People are scrimping not only on food and shopping, but also on travel. Although this year’s Tet holiday will be long (nine days), many people have decided to stay at home, unable to afford travel.
“I expected a big Tet bonus to be able to visit a friend in Hoi An, but I didn’t end up getting very much money,” said Tran To Nhu from Ho Chi Minh City. The number of travellers has dropped 30-50 per cent compared with the same period last year, said Fiditour Travel Co director Nguyen Ngoc An. Two weeks ahead of Tet, the company discounted seven domestic tours by 200-500,000 dong/per person due to a lack of bookings.
The economical trend has also been seen at offices, as workers gather to send off the old year and toast the new. Employees of many State-owned and private companies have cooked the food for their office parties rather than going to restaurants.
But, despite the small hardships, most Vietnamese people remain determined to enjoy the Tet holiday.
“For me it has always been a joyful festival when all the members of the family can come together, remember old times and hope for the best of the new year,” said Nguyen Phan Quang from the city of Da Nang.