Tet goes back in time and blends with the present

 Duong Lam Village, famous for retaining most of its features dating back centuries, offers a young photographer the chance to capture Tet of a bygone era happening now.

Hien and Nam are all smiles as they bring a peach flower branch home to celebrate Tet, the Lunar new Year festival.

The photo is part of the series "Taste of the New Year in Duong Lam Ancient Village" by photographer Cao Tung, also a freelance tour guide.

Displaying peach blossoms is an ingrained Tet tradition in northern Vietnam. The pink color of peach blossoms is said to bring luck and happiness to the whole family during the year.

The family gathers to wash dong leaves for making banh chung (square sticky rice cakes stuffed with pork and mung beans) by an ancient well. Duong Lam, about 45 km from downtown Hanoi, has become a popular destination for those looking to savor typical characteristics of an old northern Vietnam village with banyan trees, wells and communal courtyards.

After washing the rice, the dong leaves and beans, it's time to pack the cake. This photo was taken at Mrs. Lan's old house, one of the oldest in Duong Lam. These houses are constructed with laterite, ironwood and jackfruit wood pillars.

"Coming to Duong Lam with its ancient and poetic space, I felt the smell of Tet in my childhood that suddenly rushed back as I reunited with grandparents, parents and sat wrapping the banh chung cakes by the fire…," Tung said.

The atmosphere of spring is marked by the red color of gac fruit, the green color of chung cake, and the yellow and purple colors of chrysanthemum flowers in Vung's ancient house. This house has been restored to preserve the ancient village culture. It is now a famous homestay that attracts many tourists.

The smell of smoke from courtyard kitchen cooking banh chung has become a spring fragrance.

Hien (L) relaxes and reads a book after the banh chung is cooked. Nam, meanwhile, chews betel with her dyed teeth.

The custom of dyeing teeth with black color dates back to ancient times, but almost no one does it now. With every passing year, it becomes more difficult for ancient Vietnamese villages to avoid the influences of modern life from entering their daily lives as well.

Hien and Nam talk and drink tea.

"As a person working in tourism sector, I hope Duong Lam in particular and Vietnamese villages in general will retain such a traditional Tet cultural identity," Tung said.

The two elders and a girl proceed to to give Tet gifts.

Duong Lam has 50 valuable relics. It preserves houses that are almost 100 and more than 100 years old. It also has many traditional rural houses typical of the northern delta. Visitors can come to Duong Lam ancient village at any time of the year and enjoy its peace and quiet. However, the festival season in January-February or the ripe rice season is an extra special time to visit.

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