Happy Lunar New Year and welcome the year of the DRAGON : bringing opportunities, changes and challenges !



New Year in Taphin (Tamay's village near to Sapa in north Vietnam) is the most celebrated moment in the annual calendar, full of feasting and parties. This week, families across the mountainside in Taphin and beyond are preparing for the weekend when they will celebrate the beginning of the year of the dragon. It is very important welcome in the new year. What is particular for Tamay's community is to start the New Year with new, handmade clothes. 

Tamay is Mien*. All Mien Women will have spent the whole previous year preparing their new clothes for the New Year’s parties and to then wear for the year to come. On the eve of New Year everyone will have a bath, in traditional Mien herbal bath tubs*. The tradition is, to put on the new clothes that women have spent the year hand embroidering. The clothes are: Beautiful, such incredible intricate pieces, covered embroidery. Full of Pride, all Mien women spend hours and hours throughout the year making something seriously special. Social and community connectedness, powerful solidarity in the depth of the tradition, commitment and respect for each other and the previous Mien generations. It is a fresh start and good luck for the year.

 Mien woman at a party

Embroidery is hugely significant in Mien culture. In Taphin, it is the backbone of being a woman and being Mien. Women start to lean embroidery when they are about 8 years old, they practice and learn until the year they get married, usually between 16-18 years old. The year before their wedding they will be exempt from all work on the fields, work for money and domestic chores to concentrate on making their wedding clothes. Huge panels of embroidery, tail pieces, trouser panels, scarf ends, head pieces and small panels. During this year the girls master their embroidery skills, and embody the process of embroidery, the methodical step by step process that is perfect. If you make a mistake you go back and fix it. If you make it too anxiously, the work is all tight and if you make it without concentrating the stitches are loose and baggy and there are mistakes. The embroidery is, in a way, a language. It holds meaning that has been passed from generation to generation. Symbols represent the people, children, adults and elders, rice paddies, mountains and the nature. It connects the women to each other in the present and to the ancestors previous. The women are held by its physicality and through the slow act of doing. They gain respect for their commitment and they learn patience and resilience through the process. All transportable skills for successful everyday life and these women are very successful at everyday life, raising children and building homes and growing all their own food. 

*Mien people have their own language and cultural traditions. Many live across north Vietnam, southern China, Laos and Thailand. 

Mien Herbal Baths : Like a huge barrel, these baths fit a person perfectly if you cross your legs or hug your knees. The bath is filled with hot water that has been boiled with medical plants from the garden. It is comparable to an enormous herbal tea cup. After bathing, the effect is a very good nights sleep :-) 

Taphin Village, north Vietnam

Mien feast

Taphin Mountains

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