Tết Nguyên Đán. What in heck does that even mean?
When I was a kid, I knew that Tết meant New Year (well, it actually means something far more significant, but we’ll get to that in a minute), but I had no idea what Nguyên Đán meant.
Nowadays, it’s easy to find out, with the advent of search engines. We can whip out our smart phones and quickly do a search and uncover the actual meaning of Tết Nguyên Đán, which translates to ‘the first morning of the first day of the New Year.’ I wrote about the details of this in one of my previous posts, The Original Asian Zodiac 4: The Lunisolar Calendar.
Just as it sounds, the Lunisolar calendar combines the lunar and the solar aspects to create what is known as the Niên or the ‘age‘. A single Niên is called a Niên Kỳ (cycle), meaning one lunisolar year cycle, from one December solstice to the next.
It sounds as if it should be straight-forward and easy to calculate, but unfortunately, Mother Earth is an organic entity, and as with all organic entities, she is not completely precise in her movements. Sometimes, she speeds up and other times, she slows down, causing a time drift.
To try and mitigate the drift issue, we split up the Niên into 24 even slices. We call the slices tiết khí, which literally means time-spans of chi, or time-slices of chi.
After 24 Tiết, you get one Tết.
And that’s why we call Vietnamese New Year, Tết.
But wait, there’s more to this.
For each time-span of chi, there is a set amount of chi attributed to it. You see, my ancient peeps were really not measuring the duration of time, but rather the unit of chi, because they knew that time was not constant.
As we have demonstrated, time speeds up and slows down, depending on gravity’s effects on the Earth as it approaches the sun, or recedes from the sun (see my previous post The Original Asian Zodiac 3: The Math…It’s Always the Math for more details on Kepler’s second law).
Even back in those ancient days, my ancestors knew that time was not constant, but they figured out that we are always gonna get the same amount of chi, regardless whether time was a little bit faster or a little bit slower.
So this means that the word Tết. is an ancient word, reaching back to the days when my ancestors were still measuring volumes of chi per time slices, using the Metonic cycle.
The Chinese people don’t call New Year Tết because…well, I don’t think they were all that concerned with measuring chi. Only Taoists care about chi slices and how much we get a year, and as I’ve belabored this fact over the years, we Viets were first and foremost–TAOISTS.
So. To make a long story short, I want to wish everyone an amazing new year. Congratulations on making it to one more new year to add another slice of chi to yourself. May this year be AMAZING!!!