You know it’s Tet when…

    …1. The kumquat branches bear their multitudes of gold baubles, the tangerines and pomelos swell and shine, the dragon fruits and rambutans are happily sought for because of their festive shapes and colors;

    …2. The white grey front patio of Grand Century Mall and its adjacents is blushed with firecracker remnants, and if you’re there at the right moment, your ears would be blasted by the continuous loud popping of an ignited long Chinese squib, its color matched only by the ruby peach blossoms in full bloom;

    …3. The usually dormant stores that sell Vietnamese beef jerkies and dried plums awakens in a sudden selling frenzy: tasting, weighing, packaging, paying, people queuing…

    … mostly for the dried candied fruits known as mứt Tết.

    …4. It takes 30 minutes to get in and out of the mall and market parking lots in San Jose and then park on the neighborhood street, because parts of the lot are reserved for Chinese chess, fruit stalls, music stalls, peach blossom trees,…

    … cotton candy and green waffles, sunshine orchid corners, still, everybody is in a good mood;

    …5. The Buddhist nuns and pious pagoda goers gather to wrap and steam hundreds of banh chung banh tet, pickle jars of cucumber, carrot, củ kiệu, cabbage, daikon…

    … all of which are vegetarian, in small quantity, usually tasty, and always more expensive than anywhere else.

    As independent of religions and politics as the mark of spring is, you know it’s Tet where the flag still flies.

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