In the embrace of Hanoi during the days leading to the Western New Year, little seems to deviate from the ordinary. My beloved city remains abuzz with the hustle and bustle of people and cars weaving through crowded streets. Perhaps, for Vietnamese people in general, the Western New Year isn't deemed overly significant. For them, the Lunar New Year holds the essence of rest, family reunions, and meetings with loved ones and friends.
Yet, amid the whirlwind of daily tasks, one can still discern in each other's eyes an anticipation for the coming year. Though not truly "celebrating" the commencement of the new year as they do with the Lunar New Year, for most people, this "informal" New Year's Day remains a pivotal starting point. People still do the countdown on Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc Square, and even though it mostly captures the attention of the younger generation, it still attests that the Western New Year is still a special occasion for many.
"3, 2, 1. Happy New Year!"
The jubilant cheers resonate from all directions, resonating throughout the area around Hoan Kiem Lake. Hanoi opens its doors to welcome a promising new year. Each household replaces the old calendar with a fresh one just unwrapped from its box. Everyone shares the lively atmosphere of the first day of the year. As the first night of the new year gradually gives way to the sunrise, the weary crowd is no longer as dense as it was just a few hours ago. The new year has swept away their untold sorrows of the old year, restoring the sunshine to their faces.
Familiar sounds echo through the streets.
"Who wants sticky rice?"
“Anyone want to eat steamed rice dumplings? Here they are!"
"Peanut sticky rice and bánh khúc here!"
These familiar street echoes, present every day, now evoke an indescribable heartache. I wonder, do these people ever get to experience the feelings of a new year? Though unspoken, I am sure that, for those laboring souls, the Western New Year is just another ordinary day – a day to work, to wander the streets of Hanoi in search of each meager coin to support their families and themselves.
For many of us, as students of VinUni, what we consider as sadness – huge bunch of assignments, grades that fall short of expectation – although unresolved, finds some relief through the joyous New Year's Eve celebration. Yet, for the workers on those rattling bicycles, each coin, every morsel of rice, and every scrap of clothing bears the weight of their sorrows. We may set aside our sorrows to welcome a vibrant new year, but they can only continue their struggle, facing that sorrow every day, every hour.
Every day under the roof of VinUni is still a fortunate day. Every day at VinUni is a day of good food, warm clothing, and the privilege of modern education – an elusive dream for many.
I know that you also carry your own sorrows, as I do. But don't hold onto them for too long. The new year is approaching, so why don't you let the sorrows of the old year stay behind?
As the year draws to a close, what are you worrying about?
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