Tet Year of the Snake / Tet Año de la Serpiente

We have a good number of Vietnamese employees who get together every year to plan and put together a great New Year celebration to share with us in the office. They call this festivity Tet and we celebrated last week.

Tet Nguyen Dan which means the first morning of the first day of the new period is known as Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. This marks the beginning of a new year on the lunar calendar, and the beginning of spring. For Vietnamese, the New Year begins on the first night of the first moon after the sun enters Aquarium; sometime between January 21 and February 19 on the lunar calendar. 

Tet is the most important and popular festivity in Vietnam. Families prepare in advance and they take special care to ensure they start the New Year on the right foot. They clean their homes, people buy new cloths, cook special holiday foods and they try to pay off their debts. People make amends with each other to get rid of bad feelings. Southchay, my coworker, said that cleaning is not allowed during Tet because it would be like sweeping out good luck and you would not want to do that. 

During the first 3 days of Tet, people want to look and feel their best, and also have positive energy. They dress up in their new cloths, control themselves from being angry or sad and display generosity with each other. Everyone is in their best behavior, businesses close for 3 days to avoid negative or angry customers who could interfere with their positive energy. Lai, another coworker, told me that in the old days people did not go to work during Tet but now, people who do not have their own business go to work but keep positive and in good spirits. 

The atmosphere is very festive; everything is decorated and vibrant. The color red is seen everywhere because it symbolizes good luck and happiness. Lucky money is given by adults in little red envelopes, usually to single or young children. Vietnamese believe that giving money to youngsters brings good luck to them and, in turn, someone else will bring good luck to you by sharing their good fortune. I used to have a coworker, Chris Nguyen, who gave me Vietnamese money in red envelopes every Tet. I still have these envelopes and, of course, the money.

This is my friend Christina, she would be the perfect guest to have on the first day of Tet. She is the artist who painted our sign for this year's celebration

Tet is also time to share with family and close friends. The first visitors who come to your home are very important. You hope to invite people that are happy and bring good energy to your home because this will sustain good energy and happiness for you and your family throughout the new year. Lai said that people usually invite a relative or a special guess that they feel will bring them good luck. If you are not very fond of someone, she said, don’t invite them to your home during the first 3 days of Tet.

Food is the star of this celebration; anything is available when it comes to goodies, and you are allowed to eat as much as you can. You could eat your face in Tet and no one would care. This sounds just like in my Mexican feasts! There are special fruits like banana, mango, young coconut, papaya, chirimoya and rambutan that, when served together, they mean you would have enough to succeed, not too little and not too much but just enough – this is good luck in the Vietnamese culture. A traditional food is Earth Cake (in reference to the planet), a special packet made for this occasion. It is a square cake made with rice, beans and pork and wrapped in banana leaves. Both Southchay and Lai told me this is one of the foods people share with their relatives and friends during the 3 days of Tet. But Lai said that when the cake is made in a rectangular or elongated shape, you don’t suppose to share this during Tet. You could share these cakes before or after Tet but not during the 3 day celebration. The reason, she said, is because they have a shape similar to a coffin and this symbolizes death so it is bad luck to give or received Earth Cakes made in this shape. However, my friend Christina who is a native of Vietnam, told me that Earth Cakes are an important part of this celebration. They are called Banh Chung in the North of Vietnam. Banh Tet is a variation of this cake in the South. The shape of Banh Tet is cylindricul not square or round. People prepare and exchange them during the celebation of Tet.

At the office, I always have lots of fun learning about different cultures and their celebrations – this time, Tet’s traditions. I enjoyed the excellent food and fine entertainment. Thank you to all of my coworkers who put together this beautiful celebration to share with the rest of us, I loved it!
Source: Wikipedia and my coworkers



Our Home Away From Home / Nuestro Hogar Lejos De Casa

Imagine a beautiful Victorian style, two-story home with 20 rooms equipped with big comfortable beds, a private bathroom, small fridge, television and DVD player. Some of these rooms are actually suites with a couch and a desk. All 20 rooms have their own patio or balcony. 

Imagine a huge kitchen with 6 stoves, 2 microwave ovens, 4 refrigerators, 3 sinks, a huge dishwasher and a big dining area - the dream of any cook! 

Imagine a big living room with comfortable seating, a big fireplace and lots of books to read. An adjacent reflection room where one can meditate, pray or just be in silence. 

Think about a play room where children can be safe, and a computer room with multiple PCs an Internet access. There is also a laundry room should you need it. This gorgeous house also has a wrap around porch with gathering areas and a meditation garden where one can relax while listening to running water from the fountain. 

Imagine having this as your home away from home. Wouldn't that be wonderful? This is where my family and I stayed while we were in Fresno awaiting the recovery of my brother, Sandy, who was involved in a head-on car accident. 

It was around 10:00 pm, on December 10 when I received a phone call from one of my sisters. "Sandy was in a car accident and he is in critical condition in a hospital in Fresno, we have to go!", she said. We promptly made the necessary arrangements, got in the car and  3 of us sisters drove throughout  the night to Fresno. We got there early the following morning and spent all day at the hospital with our brother who was very badly injured. We were scared, not knowing if our brother will survive; no one wanted to leave the hospital to look for a hotel. A social worker at the hospital told us about Terry's House. We were able to get a room to spend the night. The rest of the family arrived later, including my mom,  an 85-year old lady that had made the 6 hour road trip from San Diego. She was clearly tired but she couldn't bear to leave her son's side in the hospital. Knowing that Terry's House was just across the street from the hospital, we were able to have her rest there. 

My brother stayed in Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno for 50 days, the same days my family stayed in Terry's House. During this time, we were overwhelmed with the generosity of the staff who were caring and compassionate. 

Ana and Evie's picture not available
We did not know anyone in Fresno but the staff at Terry's House were very welcoming and friendly, they treated us like family. Starting with House Manager, Desirey Tolosa who on the first day put me at ease when she kept calling me on my cell phone to make sure I knew she had a room for us. And she made arrangements so Evie, a very sweet lady, would let us in and show us around the house when we arrived after hours.  Evie immediately made us feel welcome and Desirey was always available to assist in any way we needed. Trina and Rebecca, two beautiful  ladies who were always tending to us, were a blessing! They prayed with us, they cried with us and they shared a little bit of themselves with us. They were constantly demonstrating sincere concern for our wellbeing. A couple of nights they offered to keep an eye on my mom and keep her company while my sister an I were at the hospital with my brother. Ana and Patricia, the cleaning ladies, were always making sure we had what we needed. Sometimes they took their break with us and we shared meals and stories. They were both very sweet - especially Patricia who was kind and gracious to come on her day off to say goodbye to us the last day we were there. All these ladies and Executive Director, Christa Short, who was always very friendly, make an amazing team! They treat every family and guest with the utmost respect, care and compassion and they make everyone's stay at Terry's House an unforgettable experience.  They go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure families who have loved ones in the hospital enjoy a good meal and a clean and warm place to stay, with welcoming staff that cares for each person. They are truly a blessing and an inspiration! 

Terry's House is not a hotel, it is a home across the street  from Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, California. Terry's House offers lodging specifically built for families with loved ones receiving care at Community Regional and is dependent entirely on private gifts and contributions. 

There are many ways in which one can contribute. Some people donate money while others donate groceries, blankets or cleaning supplies. Sometimes people volunteer to come to the house and cook a dinner for all the guests. If you would like to volunteer, please contact Desirey Tolosa at To learn more about Terry's House and how you can support this home, please follow this link, Terry's House/Make a Gift