The lunar calendar plays an important role in Asia, especially when it comes to commemorating holidays like the lunar new year. In fact, you may already know all about Chinese New Year as it’s a huge celebration in communities throughout the world.
But Chinese New Year isn’t the only holiday being observed at the new start of the lunar calendar. In Vietnam, people celebrate Tết to welcome the new year. Tết is short for Tết Nguyên Đán which means “Feast of the First Morning of the First Day” and also marks the first day of spring for the country.
The importance of Tết and its role in Vietnamese culture make it a holiday worth experiencing for travelers who want to get involved in festivities.
A Visit Home
There are many things that go into preparing for Tết. Weeks before the celebrations begin, people will clean their houses as sweeping during the new year is considered unlucky. As the days leading up to Tết draw near, families throughout Vietnam will gather together or visit their relatives in their hometown—especially since Tết is an important holiday for families throughout the country. When families gather together, children will greet their elders and receive red envelopes full of money. Tết is also a very important time for families to pay respects to their ancestors. There are also visits to temples together to pray and get their fortunes told for the upcoming year.
Visiting people during Tết doesn’t just involve going into relatives or friends’ homes when the clock strikes midnight; one has to be invited first. It’s a custom for the owner of the house to invite someone of good character and success to be the first to enter their house when Tết comes. It’s believed that if good things enter the house on the new year, then good fortune will follow for the year.
Greetings for Everyone
New year greetings are a major part of celebrating Tết. People will send each other new year messages to wish for good fortune or health. The common greeting for “Happy New Year” is Chúc Mừng Năm Mới but there are many other greetings people say depending on who they’re talking to—like children or elders—and what they wish for the new year.
Decorations for the House
To get ready for Tết, families will place a cây nêu outside their house. This is a tall bamboo pole with its top portion decorated with various objects. People will also place a Mâm Ngũ Quả (five-fruit tray) on their family altar as an offering. Flowers can also be seen displayed in the house and the type of flowers bought for Tết vary depending on the region as well as their significance.
Out on the Streets
On the day of the New Year, the streets grow loud and noisy with all sorts of sounds. The noise is to scare evil spirits so be prepared to hear a lot of firecrackers, drums, and all sorts of things being hit to make as much noise as possible. In addition to this, people will also gather to watch múa lân performed on the streets. It’s a performance similar to the Chinese Lion Dance and important for the celebration of Tết.
Many games and activities are also done during Tết. Various board games can be seen being played on the street. People also join in all sorts of competitions during the holidays—there are even ones for cooking rice and eating pho!
Food on the Table
When the parades are over, it’s time for families to get together to eat the feast they prepared for Tết. On every table, you’ll find glutinous rice with pork and bean fillings wrapped in leaves. This dish is known by different names based on their shape: bánh chưng for the square ones or bánh tét for the cylindrical ones. Depending on the region, you may see one or the other or sometimes even both. There’s also a jellied pork dish known as thịt đông served during Tết. There are also various pickled vegetables and spring rolls served during Tết meals.
For dessert, a tray of Mứt Tết is served. It’s a collection of various candied and preserved fruits and vegetables. The candies vary from dry, hard types to softer, gummy ones and vary by region and have ingredients like kumquats, coconut, and ginger. These treats are often served with a cup of tea for guests to enjoy.
Doesn’t Tết sound like a great celebration? When you’re ready to book your Vietnam trip to experience the holiday yourself, be sure to read KKday’s Vietnam travel essentials to help you get ready!
*Featured image from Phuong-That on Shutterstock