Tet, Vietnamese New Year is the most important and biggest festival of Vietnamese people, marking the beginning of New Year in Lunar Calendar and Spring. It is the time for family unions, gift exchange and best wishes between family members, relatives, and friends. During Tet, there are many Vietnamese traditional customs passed from generation to generation; such as visiting grandparents, relatives, teachers, friends, going to temples/pagodas praying for good luck, giving lucky money for young children and older people, etc.
When is Vietnamese New Year
Tet does not fall in exact dates every year but normally from late January to February in the Western calendar. Tet is normally held for at least 3 days but the preparation actually begins one or two weeks before.
The event that marks the end of the year is on 23rd of twelfth month on Vietnamese Lunar New Year when the three Kitchen Gods go to Heaven to present Jade Emperor his annual report on family members. They also help people keep fire and protect their house. Therefore, Vietnamese people always respect Kitchen Gods. At that time, Vietnamese people usually release golden carps as the means of transportation for Kitchen God. This is a nice traditional custom with the spiritual meaning of local people.
The Vietnamese New Year 2020 falls on 25th January and lasts at least 3 days until 27th January. The 24th of January is the last day of the year and the family would prepare “Com Tat Nien”, the last meal of the year to say goodbye the old year.
Tet is also the beginning of Spring festivals when people go to temples, pagodas, beautiful places, wishing for a happy and lucky year. In most of the villages, there will be a ceremony/festival held to pray for a fruitfulness year.
Based on Lunar Calendar, there would be 12 animals represent for 12 zodiac sign; and each year will carry the symbol of an animal. The 12 animals have been rotated like a circle starting from Rat (Ty) and end with Pig (Hoi). 2020 is the Year of the Rat which head of 12 animals, symbolizing witty, creative, and curious personality traits.
Tet decorations and preparations
When it is closed to Tet, the streets and markets are full of people as everyone is busy buying food, clothes, and decorations for their house. Vietnamese people believe that red and yellow will bring good fortune in the new year. Therefore, you can see these colors almost everywhere, especially at the Tet markets. The most popular one is peach blossom and kumquat tree. Not only the pink color of peach blossom bring a new source of vibrant energy to the family, joy and happiness, but it is also a ritual tree which is believed to protect the family from bad spirit. The kumquat tree symbolizes the fertility and fruitfulness that the family will get in the coming year.
Not only the house are decorated, the family pay their most attention to the ancestral altar. Vietnamese families will prepare a tray of five different fruits which is called “Mam Ngu Qua” on their altar. Depending on each region (North, Centre and South), the different types of fruits are varied. During the 1st, 2nd, 3rd of the first month Tet, the new offering is placed on the altar every day to pay respect to family ancestors and wish them to bring good luck for family members.
Special Food on Tet
One of the most exciting things for Tet is preparing special food.
Vietnamese people often prepare Banh Chung and Banh Day. Banh Chung, so-called Chung cake, is sticky rice cake with green beans, pork, wrapped by dong leaf. Banh Day is the cake in round shape. All the steps such as preparing the leaf, rice, green beans, pork fat, have to be well done by members of the family. The man of family will be responsible for wrapping the cake in the most beautiful square shape. After then, family members will stay together or take turns to watch for the fire during the night and telling each other stories of past years. Children could get a very small version of the full size and enjoy them beforehand.
The other special Vietnamese New Year food can include Gio, Cha – Vietnamese sausage and ham; or other well-cooked meat which has been frozen in cold weather or fridge.
The family could also prepare some dry snacks such as Mut (dried sweetened fruits and candies) from Coconut, Ginger, Kumquat. Nowadays, they often buy these things at renowned shops.
Vietnamese New Year wishes
During New Year, people always smile and say nice things with each other.
Vietnamese people believe that the first visitor entering their home in the first day of the new year will influence the fate of the family for the entire year; thus, they often ask for a person with good temper, and success in the last year to visit their family first. This special activity is called “xong dat” or “xong nha”, one of the most important rituals during Tet.
On the other hand, when relatives/friends visit each other during New Year, they often wish each other very good things such as longevity, luckiness, peace, health. Some of the Vietnamese New Year wishes often heard are:
- “An khang thing vuong” means security, good health, and prosperity
- “Van Su Nhu Y” means myriad things go according
- “Suc khoe doi dao” means plenty of health
- “Tien vo nhu nuoc” means money flow in like water
Modern Vietnamese New Year
As Tet plays an important role in Vietnamese spiritual life, modern New Year has been gradually changing nowadays. It is not only the chance for family members to unify together but also to travel during Tet holiday. In the big cities, where people don’t have much time and space to prepare for special food, they often have it done by the service.
In the past, kids were so eager for New Year as they have new clothes and good food to eat; the children in modern life have those things in daily life that they would not expect during the Tet. On the contrary, they are still eager for New Year as they will have a chance to visit their grandparents and receive a red envelope with lucky money from adults.
Suggested Vietnam tours 2020
Even though Vietnamese New Year – Tet has been changing nowadays, Vietnamese people still maintain all the traditional customs; and it would be so interesting for any visitors coming to Vietnam during this biggest festival.
Chuc Mung Nam Moi! Happy New Year!
Van Do – Travel Specialist