Tet is the biggest and most important festival in Vietnam. It is a tradition passed down from Chinese culture, but of course, we also have our own style of doing things. For the Vietnamese, Vietnamese New Year brings a message of confidence in humanity; it brings redemption, hope, and optimism.
Tet is the biggest and most popular festival in Vietnam. This special festival is an occasion for Vietnamese to express their remembrance to ancestors as well as gather all members of the family together to welcome the New Year with their family.
Traditionally, the purpose of the Tet holiday is that the Vietnamese would like to thank Gods for the arrival of spring with a variety of blooming trees and flowers after a cold and harsh winter. Also, this is the privileged occasion for family members to reunite, celebrating a new year that has come together, and saying farewell to the previous one. All the best things are prepared and consumed during this holiday as people want to ensure that they will have a new year full of prosperity.
How is Tet Celebrated?
Tet occupies an important role in Vietnamese’s beliefs, they will begin their preparations well in advance of the upcoming New Year. People will spend a few days cleaning their homes, repaint, and decorate the house with kumquat trees, branches of peach blossom, and many other colorful flowers. The ancestral altar is especially taken care of, with careful decoration of five kinds of fruits and votive papers. Everybody buy new clothes to wear on the first days of New Year. The color of red and yellow can be seen everywhere in Lunar New Year because Vietnamese believe that these colors will bring good fortune. People always smile and behave as nice as they can in the hope of a better year. Gifts are exchanged between family members and friends and relatives, while children receive lucky money kept in red envelopes.
Tet is not a day, It’s several days of celebration.
- Ông Công, Ông Táo Day (Kitchen God day) - December 23rd
- Family reunion and Tất niên - December 30th
- Giao thừa - New Year's Eve: including praying sessions to God and Ancestors, Xông đất (First visitor to a family in the new year)
- First three days of the new year: visit paternal side on the first day, maternal side on the second day, and teachers on the third day
- Visit relatives, friends, and neighbors: can take place from January 3rd - 5th
- Hóa vàng - burn the offerings near Tet's end for ancestors: January 4th
Food for Tet
In Vietnam, to celebrate Tet is to AN TET, literally meaning "Tet eating", some traditional foods in Tet are Chung Cake and Day cake, Roasted nuts and seeds (Watermelon seeds, Pumpkin seeds, Sunflower seeds, Cashew nuts, Pistachio), Vietnamese ham/sausage (Gio Cha), boiled chicken Pickled welsh onion pickled onion and pickled cabbage, candied fruits.
Making Chung Cake for Lunar New Year
See more at Vietnam Traditional Food For Tet Holiday
Traveling to Vietnam during Tet
If you have the opportunity to visit Vietnam during Tet holiday, make sure you join this festive of Vietnamese! Honestly, unless you know a local Vietnamese person to spend this special time of year with, it may not be that eventful.
- Transportation: It is quite difficult to plan your trip when air, trains, and coach are mostly fully booked. Therefore, you should book the transfer earlier if you will travel to Vietnam in this festival.
- Accommodation: Almost the accommodation service will raise the price if you stay during the Tet holiday attributing it to the "hot season" occasion. Check before you book!
- Sightseeing: Bad news that many museums, mausoleums …will close for at least 4 days. However, the good news that beaches will be empty, cities will be vacant (on the actual date of Tet), overall a great time for those who enjoy the tranquility.
- Eat: Most restaurants will close during Tet and reopen in the 4th- 5th date of lunar January but some restaurant is still open with higher prices.
TIPS For Travelling in Tet Lunar New Year
The traditional greetings are "chúc mừng năm mới" and "cung chúc tân xuân" (Happy New Year). People also wish each other prosperity and luck. Common wishes for Tet include:
- “Sống lâu trăm tuổi” (Live up to 100 years): used by children for elders. Traditionally, everyone is one year older on Tet, so children would wish their grandparents health and longevity in exchange for “mừng tuổi” or “lì xì”.
- “An khang thịnh vượng”: Security, good health, and prosperity
- “Vạn sự như ý”: May myriad things go according to your will
- “Sức khoẻ dồi dào”: Plenty of health
- “Cung hỉ phát tài”: from the Cantonese Gung hay fat Choy (Congratulations and be prosperous)
- “Tiền vô như nước” (May money flow in like water): used informally.
Li Xi (Giving Lucky Money)
2. Customs and taboos
These customs come from traditions passed from generation to generation and have become standard. Because of the idea that the beginning will affect the middle and the end of the year, Vietnamese people avoid doing bad things and try to do good things during the Tet holiday.
- Do during TET
- One should give people lucky presents to enhance the relationship between themselves and others: new clothes, peach branches (for expelling evil), cocks (wishing for good manners), new rice (wishing for being well-fed), rice wine in a gourd (wishing for a rich and comfortable life), Chung cake and Day cake which symbolize sky and earth (for worshipping the ancestors), red things (red symbolizes happiness, luckiness, advantages) like watermelon.
- One should buy a lot of water for Tet because people wish for money to flow like water currents in a stream (proverb: "Tiền vô như nước").
- One should sprinkle the lime powder around the house to expel evil.
- One should return all things borrowed, and pay debts before Tet.
- Go gambling after you are done with the festivities.
- Don'ts during TET
- One shouldn't say or do bad things during Tet.
- One shouldn't hurt or kill animals or plants but should set them free. The reason for this originates from Buddhism's causality.
- One shouldn't sweep the house or empty out the rubbish to avoid luck and benefits going with it, especially on the first day of the New Year. One shouldn't let the broom in confusion if people don't want it to be stolen.
- One shouldn't have duck meat because it brings unluckiness.
- One shouldn't have shrimp in case one would move backwards like shrimp, in other words, one would not succeed.
- One shouldn't buy or wear white clothes because white is the color of funerals in Vietnam.
- One shouldn't let the rice-hulling mill go empty because it symbolizes failed crops.
- One shouldn't refuse anything others give or wish you during Tet.
All in all, Tet is all about back to origins, wishing for the best, and joining in colorful parties. If you are lucky to be in Vietnam during this extremely special event, put your worries aside and join in the fun!
You may also like: Differences between Vietnamese Lunar New Year and Western New Year
Image Sources: Internet