Happy Lunar New Year everyone! Yeah, I know this comes a tad late.
Hương is dressed in her áo tứ thân, what used to be the daily attire of (North) Vietnamese peasantry, but has now become traditional attire worn during festive occasions.
The little jovial boy is her baby half-brother Ricky, although at home their parents call him “Chượt”, which means mouse. Apparently they still believe in the superstition that if you call your baby using a nice name, evil spirits become attracted to the sound of that name and will steal your baby’s soul away. So by calling him a mouse, evil spirits won’t be interested. Poor Ricky. I think he’ll grow up confused. Actually, you probably should feel bad for his hair-style, that tacky cut for little boys where you have a patch of hair on the top and on the side. I guess it’s not as bad as a bowl-cut…
Hương is holding a lì xì, red envelope filled with newly-minted money, a symbol of fresh prosperity for the new year. Giving red envelopes comes from an ancient practice of giving prayers for a successful harvest later in the year. I suspect the money is a form of seed fund for farmers to acquire new tools and seed to start planting. The modern practice has changed of course, but the notion of blessing others for a fresh start towards a fruitful future hasn’t changed.
Lighting firecrackers, when China/Vietnam was more superstitious (it still is, though), was a way to scare off the bad spirits from the past year from wreaking havoc on the new year. Firecrackers have largely been banned, if not regulated, due to safety concerns caused by recklessness in the past. So to make up for the missing firecrackers, I guess you can enjoy an electronic firecracker on YouTube. But if you still feel the chills of an evil spirit lurking in your back, use that lì xì money and treat yourself to a day at the spa.
Lily is rousing me from my winter hibernation. She dragged me out of bed to go to Starbucks and do something productive. Not feeling in the least bit interested in being productive, I was doing some research on typography. I was curious about Vietnamese typography, and noticed that the word/name HƯƠNG has hook diacritics (dấu móc) that reminded me of Pucca’s hairbuns. And so I was compelled to make this. I wonder what she looks like in traditional Vietnamese attire.