This chapter introduces Vietnamese culture and traditions to readers who are foreign to Vietnamese customs. My hope is that young Vietnamese who were born outside of Vietnam will also find it interesting and educational as well.
Vietnamese culture is rich and vibrant. There are so many topics that we could easily write a book about. However, I will keep it simple. We will discuss the traditions such as family values, foods, economics, religions, and fashions that I am familiar with. My perspective may be biased. Through this article, you will learn my point of view and beliefs. I hope you will enjoy reading this chapter.
There is a long list of family values that is unique to Vietnamese as well as similar to other cultures. Here are a few: Firstborn tradition, wedding tradition, holidays, and hierarchy and respect.
First Born Tradition
In a Vietnamese family, the firstborn child is very important. A family is blessed if the firstborn is a boy. Many Vietnamese families prefer having boys rather than girls. Boys bear the family traditions. Boys also keep the family name alive.
The oldest son cares for the retired parents. The firstborn grandson is called đίch tôn. When the grandparents pass on, the grandson accepts and carries out the family’s traditions. He is responsible for gathering the family for festivities such as Vietnamese New Year called tết, the anniversary of the dead called giỗ, and other religious ceremonies. These traditions have been passed from generation to generation. Women were not allowed to initiate the ceremonies. Therefore, it is important to have a boy so the traditions will live on forever.
The firstborn son was important during my parents’ generation. My parents’ first child was a girl. Four girls later, they were blessed with a boy. I was the third girl. Of course, another boy was needed to play with the first boy. Two more children were born. The last child was a boy. My parents’ wish was fulfilled. It was a perfect set of the lucky number seven. They love all their children dearly regardless of their gender. Finally, one day before my father passed away, he was happy to admit that having girls were not so bad after all.
Perhaps, the firstborn tradition is still lingering in the Vietnamese culture deep down in every household. Nonetheless, we are no longer being pressured to have the firstborn son.