Friday, February 15, 2008

It Was 40 Years Ago Today...

Well, not 40 years ago exactly, but 40 years ago in general that the Vietnamese launched the Tet offensive on American forces in the war. It was a surprise attack, launching on the first of the Vietnamese Holiday of Tet, or Lunar New Year, the same as the Chinese and Koreans celebrate. While historians have generally considered the Tet offensive to have been politically successful, militarily it cost great lost of life to the Viet Cong and inflicted heavy casualties on soldiers and villagers alike.

Excerpt from Wikipedia:

The Tet Offensive (Tet Mau Than), or officially, Tổng Công Kích/Tổng Khởi Nghĩa - General Offensive, General Uprising, was a three-phase military campaign conducted between National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF or Viet Cong) and the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) during the Vietnam War (1955-1975).The purpose of the operations, which were unprecedented in their magnitude and ferocity, was to strike military and civilian command and control centers throughout the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) and to spark a general uprising among the population that would then topple the Saigon government, thus ending the war in a single blow.

I'm sure there were military parades in Hanoi but I didn't see any in Saigon. Tet here passed peacefully, as well it should. During Tet the majority of businesses close for various times over a two-week period but most certainly for the three-day official Holiday which happened last weekend. Almost at the beginning of the Holiday, the man or maybe woman across the street died. So at 4am one day the brass band started up and we were off for three days of burial celebrations. This person ran the busiest Vietnamese restaurant on the street, packed at 4am with all the local workers from the tourist bars here, but during the funeral – closed. And closed still. I wonder if that's the end of the business? Just to give you and idea, here's another Vietnamese funeral – shot from my balcony:

The modern funeral ceremony, at least in Saigon it seems, borrows a lot from a New Orleans style service. In any case, the Holiday is now finished and the Vietnamese will get back to work, at least until Christmas, when a full two months of festival activities launches again and doesn't end until Valentines Day. Now that's something you get here: all the charming traditional holidays right along with all the cheesy commercial western ones!

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