Happy Vietnamese Tet Traditions that Mark the Arrival of Spring
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Tet or Vietnamese Lunar New Year Festival is the most significant and exhilarating holiday in Vietnam that marks the arrival of spring based on the Lunar Calendar and include some special Vietnamese Tet traditions. The festival takes place from the 1st day of the 1st month of the Lunar Calendar (often around late January or early February) and lasts at least 3 days. Before the event, people prepare for Tet holiday by cleaning houses and cooking many special kinds of food. Other activities include ancestral worshipping, exchanging Tet’s greetings, giving lucky money, and more. And, above all, family reunion in Tet is the best thing.

The Lunar New Year in Vietnam throughout the three regions cover three major periods: (1) Before New Year’s Eve (Tat Nien), New Year’s Eve (Giao Thua), and the New Year (Tan Nien). The preparation before Tet, the eve of Tet, and the days of and after Tet have some customs to celebrate the event beautifully. This article has also useful tips for you if you travel to Vietnam during Lunar New Year period.

Tet Customs before New Year’s Eve

Weeks before the Tet holiday in Vietnam, people spend time cleaning their house and decorating it with the brightly-colored items. Similar to other Asian residents, the Vietnamese believe that red and yellow are linked to good fortune; therefore, items with the colors of red and yellow can be seen almost everywhere in the New Year. This custom also provides opportunities for all family members to share the works and have fun together.

And, to practice customs of “Tet Ong Tao” (The Kitchen’s God Day) on December 23rd of the Lunar Calendar, the Vietnamese also cleans their kitchen, parole the carps (which are believed to carry the Kitchen God to heaven to report the early life to the Jade Emperor. Next, people cook special holiday food for Vietnamese Lunar New Year. In particular, they will cook “Banh Chung” (the square steamed cake) and “Banh Tet” (cylindrical steamed cake), “Cu Kieu” (the pickles), “Mut” (candied fruits), Vietnamese spring rolls, etc. Nowadays, families can make these dishes in their homes or buy the already-made ones in the markets.

Releasing carp on the Kitchen’s God Day (December 23rd of the Lunar Calendar)

Releasing carp on the Kitchen’s God Day (December 23rd of the Lunar Calendar)

More important than the clean house and the delicious Tet food is the family reunion that all family members can gather and share the meaningful moments. They together worship at the family altar, visit the ancestors’ graves, and go shopping for new clothes, food, and decorations. With regards to the family altar worshipping, it should always have a tray of five different fruits (“Ngu Qua”) associated with some other new offerings. Following the days prior to Tet can be the year-end parties and paying up any outstanding debt.

Tet Customs in New Year’s Eve

In New Year’s Eve, families will gather to have meals, share stories, and watch fireworks on televisions. It’s up to each family to celebrate the eve of the New Year. Others might go out to attend the colorful parade and watch music performance or the live fireworks in the big cities. While the young people love hanging out in crowded places, the elders would love to stay home and do pray for the best New Year of wealth, health, and happiness.

People watch the live fireworks in Hanoi on New Year Eve

People watch the live fireworks in Hanoi on New Year Eve

Customs in the Days of and Following Tet in Vietnam

Tet in Vietnam mainly occurs in three first days of the New Year. There exists a tradition of how to spend the days during this occasion.

On the 1st day of the New Year, the Vietnamese would like to invite a good-fortune person to visit their houses in the morning (Xong Nha). This can bring luck and success to the host and hostess. Also, the 1st day is said to be the Tet of Father that people should visit the parental side of the family. And, the exchange of New Year’s Greetings associated with the Lucky Money is also performed on this day, for the concept of “Give and Receive”. Amongst the most beautiful Tet customs in Vietnam, giving Lucky Money to children and elderly people embraces great meanings.

Give luckey money to children in Tet festival

Give luckey money to children in Tet festival

On the 2nd day of Tet, the Vietnamese will visit their maternal side of the family. By visiting the grandfathers’ and grandmothers’ houses, children can receive more red envelopes with the Lucky Money. Of course, kids should learn to remember some best greetings:

  • Cung Chuc Tan Xuan / Chuc Mung Nam Moi: Happy New Year
  • Song Lau Tram Tuoi: Wish You A Long Life of 100 Years Old
  • An Khang Thinh Vuong: Wish you safety, health, and prosperity
  • Tien Vo Nhu Nuoc: May Money Flow in Like Water
  • Suc Khoe Doi Dao: Plenty of health

On the 3rd day of the Tet in Vietnam, people visit their teachers, relatives, and friends. Besides, Tet is an occasion for pilgrims to visit pagodas and temples to seek for peace of mind as well praying for the better upcoming year. All troubles of the past year should be left behind. It’s likely that the Buddhist pagodas are packed with pilgrims and visitors who come to give donations and pray for the best. Note that during the three first days of the New Year, the Vietnamese will not sweep their houses because sweeping during Tet is a taboo as it’s believed to sweep away the luck.

The subsequent days are up to each family and individual, but the common custom is that people prefer staying with the ones they love whether they are traveling, staying home, going shopping, hanging out, or having meals. The senses of family reunion and togetherness are highly valued in the Vietnamese Tet traditions.

As the time to Tet holiday in Vietnam is counting down, every foreign guest is welcomed to experience this absolutely special occasion at least once. If you have any ideas to visit Vietnam during Tet, carry it out and see how the locals smile and behave as nice as they can during the Tet time, wishing for a happy year. Also enjoying the Vietnamese Tet food, and perhaps, you’ll be pleased to learn how to cook. The local scenery is brightly-colored, energetic, and exhilarating during the festival for sure.