Ready-made feasts free Vietnamese women from Tet chores

By Vuong Linh   February 6, 2018 | 09:03 pm PT
Ready-made feasts free Vietnamese women from Tet chores
A traditional Lunar New Year meal in Hanoi should include boiled chicken, fried spring roll, the sticky rice banh chung, soup and much more. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Trang
Why should men have all the fun while women are slaving away in the kitchen?

Vietnamese women are traditionally in charge of the housework, and that burden multiplies when it comes to the country’s biggest holiday, Tet. But some have found a way out.

They pay other people to do their chores.

“My days of organizing parties are over. They will bring all the food over on New Year’s Eve,” said a woman in Hanoi, who only revealed her first name as Thao.

“The burden is off my shoulders,” she said.

Tet, or the Lunar New Year, will fall next week and is the most important holiday in Vietnam. It involves a lot of parties and house visits, and as a result requires a lot of cooking and cleaning.

In the still largely patriarchal Vietnam, most of the work is usually done by the women, until they can stand it no more.

Media reports and human rights organizations have been criticizing the housework stereotype in Vietnam, so companies are featuring more men in advertisements for kitchen appliances (although only in supporting roles) now that modern women have decided to give themselves a break.

“There are menus with prices on Facebook. I just need to browse and order,” Thao said.

She said her family will have a boiled chicken for the altar, and will be treated to all the traditional Tet dishes including bamboo sprouts, fried spring rolls, meat paste and fried shrimp.

By paying around $200, she has bought herself a lot of free time.

Tet is for relaxing and having fun,” she said.

Ho Thanh Mai, who runs a business supplying Tet meals in Hanoi, said 90 percent of her customers are office workers who are too busy for all the holiday chores, and at the same time internet-savvy enough to catch up with new services online.

Mai said people used to book just the essential items like banh chung (sticky rice cakes), but now more and more are ordering full feasts.

A woman browse Lunar New Year foods offered on Facebook. Photo by VnExpress

A woman browses Lunar New Year menus on Facebook. Photo by VnExpress

Thanh, another woman living in the capital, has searched the internet to “liberate” herself.

In the past, she had to run back and forth between her office and her kitchen at home to prepare the year-end party. Her husband is the eldest son in the family, which means he is in charge of family parties and she ends up doing all the work.

Well, not any more.

“I used to spend an entire day shopping, cooking and cleaning up. It was exhausting,” she said.

This year, she spent half an hour to prepare a party for 30 people, and it cost her VND2.7 million ($120) including cleaning up afterwards.

“It's only a little bit more expensive than what I'd usually pay, but now I feel so much freer and happier,” she said.

As with all revolutions, Thanh said she has met with opposition.

Her husband was not on board to start with. “Home-cooked meals are more meaningful,” he said.

But when she complained about her back pains and asked him to cook it himself, he quickly agreed to the idea.

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