What is Tet?
Considered the first day of spring and most important of national holidays in Vietnam, Tet is the annual Vietnamese New Year celebration, coinciding with the Lunar New Year celebrated throughout the world in January or February. Technically, "Tet" is a shortened form of Tết Nguyên Đán, a way to say "Lunar New Year" in Vietnamese.
Saigon before New Year’s Eve
Before New Year’s Eve, people have some day off from work to do all the preparation for Tet holiday. The process includes home cleaning and decorating, shopping for new clothes and foods, buying flowers and more. These days, the streets are super crowded and the vibrant atmosphere fills every corner of Saigon. Wandering around the lively flower markets, colorful flower streets or just some random shops in Cho Lon (China Town), you will be amazed by the incredibly festive mood of the whole city during this occasion, especially on New Year’s Eve, when thousands of people join the countdown party and observe the fireworks together.
Saigon after New Year’s Eve
However, things change differently right after midnight. On the first day of Lunar New Year, expats will be surprised before the quiet and peaceful Saigon. The traditional thing to do during the Tet season is to return to your hometown to spend the day (and the days or even weeks surrounding it) with family, and the vast majority of Vietnamese abide by this tradition. Since most Saigon people are immigrants to the city from rural areas, this means a huge portion of Saigon’s population funnels out of the metropolis during Tet. Because their audience is out of town and because Vietnamese business owners want to take off Tet season too, most of the city’s establishments, open during the rest of the year, close their doors in observance of the occasion. This is the most peaceful time of Saigon.
Where Should We Go on Tet Holiday in Saigon?
Nguyen Hue Boulevard will blossom with many types of flowers such as yellow apricot flower, daisy, hollyhock mallow, orchids, hydrangea, lotus, and so much more. This street is also a book street!
Another place where you can enjoy the grace and splendor of the flowers is Tao Dan Park. This location is not as crowded as the Nguyen Hue Street. Here you can find different types of flowers, plants, and bonsai. Furthermore, you can listen to the song of the birds here. However, you must pay a small entrance fee.
Visiting pagodas and praying to ancestors is a huge part of the Tet tradition for the Vietnamese. Paying a visit to a pagoda or two is a great way to catch an insight into the spiritual lives of Vietnamese, and it may even get you into the Tet spirit yourself.
Dam Sen or Suoi Tien park are good places to check out if you visit HCMC during Tet holiday. While Suoi Tien has a fruit festival every year, Dam Sen offers a street carnival. You can also have a new year picnic here!