Apples to Oranges


Growing up in Maine, perhaps before even such things as finger-guns were considered a national threat, did you have crabapple fights with your friends in the field out back? Before 9/11 and the War on Terrorism, you could. And the kids down south weren’t excluded. Down there, if you didn’t have a kumquat tree in your backyard, one of your buds did, and those tiny sour oranges were the perfect ammunition for a messy get-your-aggressions-out neighborhood war. You didn’t even have to rent a paintball gun.


So it stands to reason that other families from warmer climes, like the Vietnamese, would have kumquats within both their decorative repertoire and their children’s ammo supply. However, and you can be sure of this, Vietnamese moms and dads are impressing upon their children this month how much those kumquat blossoms will be needed for the family’s upcoming preparations for Tết Nguyên Đán, meaning “Feast of the First Morning of the First Day” or simply Tết, the lunar New Year.


If you’re not familiar with the mythology of Tết, it’s a fascinating story, involving a baker’s dozen of animals in a race over all kinds of difficult terrain and finally across a raging river, all competing for first-place status in the eyes of the celestial Emperor. And it turns out that 2018 (starting on February 16) is a Year of the Dog. The dog didn’t do so well in the astrological race, having spent so much time in the river getting extra clean for the Emperor before climbing out to cross the finish line, but historically, dogs (Elvis Presley and Prince are examples) have fought against injustice wherever they have gone.


If that’s not enough to get your kids interested in “Vietnamese Zodiac Art Time” at the Children's Museum & Theatre of Maine (142 Free St), then you and your fam will be somewhere else on Saturday, December 7 between 11:30 a.m. and noon. But you’ll be missing the main exhibit there, “Voyage to Vietnam: Celebrating the Tết Festival,” as well as this free-with-admission chance to meet the animals of the Vietnamese zodiac and hear how each was chosen by the Emperor, followed by a collaborative mural-making effort to honor this special time of year.


Our advice? Change your plans and be there.


Children's Museum & Theatre of Maine:


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