Farewell of the Kitchen God
On the December 23rd of Lunar Calendar, every family buys a carp for the Kitchen God to ride to heaven. The carp is blessed on the altar and is then released in a river to wish the God farewell. After a week, the Kitchen God returns to earth and the New Year begins. To the Vietnamese, the kitchen is so important that a God is assigned to preside over it. To know if a family is rich or poor, just take a look at their meals. To find out if a family is happy and harmonious, just listen to its members' conversations during the meals.
Customarily, families give their homes a thorough cleaning in the days leading up to New Year’s Day. Windows are scrubbed, floors are swept and furniture is dusted in preparation for the new year, sweeping away the bad luck of the past year. In addition, dusting is avoided on New Year’s Day, for fear that good fortune will be swept away.
Since Tet is the most important festival for Vietnamese, preparations for celebration begins well in advance. You can see the atmosphere of Tet is every corner of Vietnam because the festive scarlet décor adoring every street, storefront and home.
The red color is ubiquitous because it is associated with wealth and good fortune. Red lanterns are hung on the streets, while windows and doors are decorated with posters and papers bearing auspicious characters and phrases. Potted kumquat is a popular decoration for the living room during Tet. Its many fruits symbolize the fertility and fruitfulness that the family hopes for in the coming year.
Preparing Banh Chung
In the days leading up to Tet, each family cooks traditional foods served during Tet. Preparations for these foods are quite extensive, especially Vietnam traditional cake – Banh Chung-Banh Tet. Family members often take turns to keep watch on the fire overnight, telling each other stories about Tet of past years.
Gathering for Tat Nien meal
If someone wishes to confess, to forgive, to express love and wishes for their beloved ones, there’s no better time to do it than the last dinner of the year (called Tat Nien). Before Tat Nen, food offerings are taken down from the ancestors after asking for permission from ancestors. This is often done by the most prominent person in the family, usually the father.
Tat Nien is when you can find the most popular Tet foods within one meal. During tat nien, family members recall what everyone has done it the past year, share stories and wish Happy New Year (Chuc mung nam moi) while giving toast. Altogether, they look forward to a prosperous year ahead with good luck and health for everyone.