Traditional Tet, Vietnamese Lunar New Year
Vietnamese New Year is the most important festival of the Vietnamese people. When spring arrives, all Vietnamese are thrilled by the advent of Tet. Wherever they may be, they feel an immense nostalgia, wishing to come back to their homeland for family reunion and enjoy the particular atmosphere of the Vietnamese festivals.
Like other Asian countries, Vietnamese believe that the color of red and yellow will bring good fortune, which may explain why these colors can be seen everywhere in Lunar New Year. People consider what they do on the beginning of Tet will determine their fate for the whole year, hence people always smile and behave as nice as they can in the hope for a better year.
Before New Year’s Eve
This period begins one or two weeks before the actual celebration. The general atmosphere leading up to Tet is in the bustle of shopping, decorating the home, cooking traditional Tet food and waiting for relatives to return home. People try to pay off their debts in advance so that they can be debt-free on Tet. Parents buy new clothes for their children so that the children can wear them when Tet arrives.
Vietnamese families usually have a family altar, to pay respect to their ancestors. Vietnamese families have a tray of five different fruits on their altar called “Ngũ Quả” (five types of fruits). During Tet, the altar cleaned and new offerings are placed there. Traditionally, the three kitchen guardians for each house (Ông Táo) (Kitchen God) return to heaven on the 23rd of December by lunar calendar to give his annual report on family members to the Jade Emperor.
New Year's Eve (Giao Thua)
New Year's Eve is the most sacred moment, the passage from the old to the new year. It is popularly believed that in heaven there are twelve highnesses in charge of monitoring and controlling the affairs on earth, each of them taking charge of one year. It is the moment of seeing off the old chieftain upon the conclusion of his term and welcoming in the new one upon his assumption of office.
The New Year
The first day of Tet is for the family. Children wear their new clothes, give their elders the traditional Tet greetings before receiving the lucky money from them in exchange. The traditional greetings are “Chuc Mung Nam Moi” (Happy New Year) and “Cung Chuc Tan Xuan” (gracious wishes of the new spring). People also wish each other prosperity and luck.
Since the Vietnamese believe that the very first visitor a family receives in the year determines their fortune for the entire year, a person of good temper, morality and success will be the lucky sign for the host family and be invited first into the house. This special activity is called “xông đất” or “xông nhà”, which is one of the most important rituals during Tet. According to Vietnamese tradition, if good things come to the family on the first day of the lunar New Year, the entire following year will also be full of blessings.
During subsequent days, people visit relatives and friends. Traditionally, the second day of Tet is usually for friends, while the third day is for teachers, who command respect in Vietnam. Local Buddhist temples are popular spots as people like to give donations and to get their fortunes during Tet.
Festivals after Tet Holiday
Tet ends when votive papers are burned and offerings are taken down from the altars to share for every family member. It is the time for people to join in festivals all around the country such as buffalo fighting festival or boat racing, wrestling, lion or dragon dances. Festivals will be organized for a month after Tet holiday so you are able to attend and explore them as many as possible.
Vietnam Lunar New Year is the traditional value of Vietnam and an indispensable part of the life of all Vietnamese. Come to enjoy Tet holiday in Vietnam to have an unforgettable experience!