Tet Holiday 2023
The Art, Science, and Magic of Nhat Tan's Dao Trees
|The Dao trees of Tay Ho's Nhat Tan Ward. Photo by Glen MacDonald|
The immense Nhat Tan bridge peeks over a quiet tree farm. With twisted trunks and leafless limbs, a flowery explosion gestates inside of the trees, keeping them warm amidst Hanoi’s midwinter chill. In a few weeks, the pink and white petals will emerge from them, just in time for the Lunar New Year.
Known as Dao trees, these plants are a common sight during the Tet season in northern Vietnam. Throughout the nation, families buy certain flowering plants, depending on the region, to welcome the New Year. According to local beliefs, the size of the plant correlates to the amount of luck and wealth the family will receive that year. Ergo, the bigger the tree, the bigger the fortune.
|Blossoming pink joy. Photo by Le Minh Nguyet.|
The pink coloring is quite attractive to the Vietnamese, who associate the color with happiness, wealth, and celebration. As their pink petals are doubly-layered, Dao trees represent prosperity in abundance.
Farmer Tuyet and her husband, Dung, own several plots of land in the Nhat Tan Ward where they grow dozens of Dao trees. Following three generations of tradition, the skilled farmers move gracefully between the delicate branches. Dung, a lean middle-aged man, is able to move heavy stone pot with ease.
After years of caring for the special trees, Tuyet and Dung are local Dao tree experts. According to Tuyet, the trees are quiet hearty do not require much water. However, Tuyet, Dung, and their laborers surveil the trees, 24/7, looking for an early signs of blooming. The first buds of the season are quickly plucked and the sap is routinely drained in order to stall the trees from blossoming before Tet.
|Early buds. Photo by Glen MacDonald.|
|Ready for the Lunar New Year. Photo by Glen MacDonald.|
|Pink perfection. Photo by Glen MacDonald.|
Tuyet and Dung have gotten their Dao tree care to an exact science, encouraging their trees to burst with color on the first day of Lunar New Year, a happy symbol for families in Northern Vietnam.
In addition to maintaining their precious branches, the farmers also pay close attention to the roots of the Dao tree. Months prior to harvesting, Tuyet and Dung make sure the roots grow in such a way so they can be replanted in a sturdy, stone pot and easily transported throughout the region.
Wild eastern winds and sunny days are not ideal for the Dao trees. Tuyet reports that last year’s severe summer was detrimental to the plant. Fortunately, this year’s milder summer was a blessing for Tuyet and Dung.
While walking through their Dao tree farm, the untrained eye may confuse the trees for all being the same, (if not dead). Rather, there are several different types of Dao trees, precisely grown to fit the desires of the customer. For example, there are three different colors of Dao trees. The white flower is the least popular and few are grown by Tuyet and Dung. The trees with a bright pink flower are from Laos and are quite well liked because of their cute look. Meanwhile, the famous Nhat Tan flower is defined as more as a pastel pink, adding much needed color to Hanoi’s gray winter skies.
|A Dao tree with a twisted trunk. Photo by Glen MacDonald.|
Even the branches are grown to match the customer’s specifications. Some branches are wavy, while others put upwards towards the heavens. For a few extra million dong, customers can also buy a special bonsai Dao trees that delights the entire family.
|Tuyet and her beloved Dao trees. Photo by Glen MacDonald.|
Tuyet has spent most of her adult life amongst the Dao trees. She returns to her trees in the Nhat Tan ward so she can complete her yearly mission; “I want everyone to look upon my trees with joy and fulfillment.”
|Dao trees, blossoming for Tet. Photo by Glen MacDonald.|
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