I’ve always felt a little disconnected from traditions. Having always sought the ‘alternative’ in life, traditions seemed to represent the mainstream, cultural conservatism and capitalism. I was fascinated by the traditional practices of other cultures while my own felt rather terrifying.
In Vietnam, it seems like everyone celebrates Tết, or Chinese New Year. Almost all shops and businesses close for about a week as people in towns and cities travel back to the villages of their ancestors. The thousands of motorbikes that usually weave endlessly through the streets disappear and are replaced by millions of yellow flowers.
Marigolds are most popular but Chrysanthemum, Lilies and plenty of others I could never identify are displayed inside and outside of people’s homes and businesses. Downtown Saigon has an enormous flower display along it’s main pedestrianised street and, as though commanded by the moon, the trees that line the avenues magically blossom on time and cover the pavements with their bright yellow petals.
The year of the rooster in now underway, and people are starting to go about their business. But there’s something special about this holiday, and even though I can finally buy some food and run some errands, I’m a little sad that Tết is over.
I think it’s important to question blind or hypocritical traditions from my own culture and certainly won’t become a consumerist just to enjoy them! But I’m reminded of how traditions bring depth and life to our past and present. They connect us with other times and places and help us to tell our story.
They can be well thought through, inclusive, diverse and ethical. They can be alternative and edgy and deeply personal. Maybe it’s time I start exploring some of the long-lost Welsh traditions of old… or at least get ready to bake some cracking Welshcakes come St. David’s Day!