I - A quick look into Tet
To all Vietnamese people, Tet is the most important holiday of the year. Everyone is eager to welcome and enjoy it.
1 - The origin & meaning of the Tet Holiday in Vietnam
Tết Nguyên Đán (in Vietnamese) or the lunar new year of Vietnam has existed and lasted for over a thousand years since the Hung King's reign.
Traditional Tet is the biggest cultural event of the year for Vietnamese people. Tet Lunar New Year has many cultural and spiritual meanings: marking the transition from the old year to the new year, being the traditional reunion of families and pilgrims, and occasion for worshipping ancestors and celebrating spiritual practices & activities. On this occasion, people have a long holiday to work off & gather with family and celebrate the new year with many cheerful experiences.
2 - When is the Vietnamese New Year Festival?
The traditional new year festival is celebrated based on the lunar calendar. It often comes after the new year festival of the western countries. Tet often lasts from late January to early February in the solar calendar.
In addition, in January, February and March, there are also many festivals and religious activities related to Tet such as the full moon of January, the first spring trip, the pagoda visitations to pray for luck and peace.
At the same time, during one week before the Tet Holiday in Vietnam, there are also many religious and spiritual activities by which the Vietnamese show gratitude to the gods and ancestors who have blessed a year of lush crops, good weather, health, wealth, and happiness.
Note: 7 days before and after Tet, the demand for nationwide travel will dramatically increase, leading to the overbooking in air tickets, accommodation, and transport services. The cost of services also is higher than other days.
3 - The difference between Vietnamese New Year and Chinese New Year
Due to the time zone difference, in a few years, Vietnam celebrates the Lunar New Year one day earlier than China. While activities related to the Lunar New Year in Vietnam last from the 23rd of the Twelfth lunar month to the end of the 7th of the First Lunar Month, Tet in China lasts from the 8th of the Twelfth Lunar Month to the 15th of the First Lunar Month. Moreover, the typical traditional dishes or the entertainment activities of the two countries are not the same, the most prominent of which are cherry blossoms - apricot blossom, bamboo tree, sticky rice cake...
II - How is Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebrated?
1 - Ong Cong - Ong Tao festival day
In Vietnamese cultural beliefs, Ong Cong (the Land Genie) - Ong Tao (the Kitchen God) is the representative of Gods in the house.
On the 23rd day of the lunar December (about 6-7 days before the Vietnamese Tet Festival), Vietnamese families will clean the house, especially the kitchen, and prepare a big ceremony to farewell the Gods on the journey to heaven for a brief to Jade Emperor about all events happening to the house owner, and to pray for a new year with luck and happiness.
The worshipping ceremony includes traditional delicacies (steamed sticky rice, plain porridge boiled chicken, Vietnamese sausage, fried spring roll, bamboo shoot soup) incense, fresh flowers, white wine, a couple of alive carp, and votive papers. After finishing the worshipping, the carps are released to the river or lake as a means of transport for Ong Cong and Ong Tao to fly to heaven and brief the Jade Emperor.
2 - Year-end party in the Tet holiday in Vietnam
A year-end party is an important cultural tradition before welcoming the new year. On the last day of the lunar year, all members of the family will gather, prepare a feast to worship, and show their gratitude to their ancestors.
Vietnamese New Year is a great time for family when all members can gather, have a meal together, and share all the things that have happened in the year, as well as the goals and wishes in the new year.
Year-end offering ceremony:
For the year-end offering ceremony, two worshiping trays are prepared, one to worship the ancestors and another one to worship the earth and the heaven. The ancestor worship tray is to report to the ancestors about the work done and not done in the year. The other tray is to express gratitude to heaven and earth for a favorable year and express the wishes for a new successful and lucky year.
3 - Vietnamese New Year's Eve
New Year's Eve is the special transitional time between an old and a new year. At this sacred moment, there are many exciting New Year celebrations such as New Year's Eve offering, New Year's meal, and New Year wishes.
Vietnamese New Year's Eve offering: The ancestor worshiping meal includes boiled chicken, bamboo shoot soup, spring rolls, stir-fried dishes, fresh flowers, and Vietnamese Chung cake.
In big cities such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang,... there will be cultural programs and fireworks show to welcome a new year as a wish to all families for a peaceful new year with more brilliant success. Right after the fireworks show to welcome the new year, the President sends greetings and a letter conveying his beliefs and feelings to the people of the country.
4 - The first three days of the Vietnamese Lunar New Year
On the first days of the new year, everyone spends time visiting and celebrating Tet with their relatives, friends, teachers. Every wish you send is also a wish for a good new year. In Vietnam, there is often the concept of "the first day of the Lunar New Year is for your father, the second day is for your mother, and the third day of the new year is for your teacher''. These are 03 people who have a great influence on each person's life.
You may find it interesting: How is Lunar New Year in Hanoi?
III - Other activities on Tet Holiday in Vietnam
Activities that usually take place before, during, and after the Lunar New Year include:
1 - Visiting ancestors’ graves
Visiting ancestors’ graves is an activity usually taken at the end of the old year to commemorate the deceased loved ones and wish them a happy and peaceful new year. The main activities of this day are clearing grass, refreshing graves, offering fruits, incense, and white wine, votive papers, etc. This is also one of the activities that clearly shows the tradition of "When eating a fruit, be grateful to the grower" of Vietnamese people.
2 - House decoration before Tet Festival in Vietnam
Cleaning the house to remove old things is also how Vietnamese people throw the sad and unlucky stories of the past year out of the house. At the same time, they decorate their house with fresh flowers, red banners, lanterns, peach blossoms, apricot flowers, chrysanthemums,... These are lucky "mascots" in the new year that each family prepares.
The big streets are also covered with decorative lighting systems with many different colors and shapes. On the last days of the year, when strolling on the street, you can easily feel the eager atmosphere of the Vietnamese people waiting for a new year to come.
3 - Making traditional Vietnamese New Year food
Chung cake - Source: Doanhnhanplus
Tet is also indispensable for Vietnamese traditional dishes such as Chung cake - Banh tet, sautéed sausage, pickles, etc. These are all typical dishes that every family prepares for the Traditional New Year. In addition, some localities also have some unique regional dishes such as “gai” cake, “it” cake, five-color sticky rice, ...
The activities related to Chung cake: wrapping, cooking the cake, etc. have become a symbolic feature of the Tet atmosphere in Vietnam.
4 - Visiting pagoda & temple, picking buds early in the year
On the occasion of Vietnamese Tet, everyone converges their mind towards the Buddha with the values of "Truthfulness - Compassion - Beauty" and wishes to be guided for a peaceful new year, accumulating many blessings for themselves and their relatives.
At the same time, each person will also pick a bud for themselves (a bud of a tree or a flower growing in the temple grounds), then take it home and place it on the ancestral altar with the strong belief that the omen, the blessings that you pray and the Buddha bless will be on the buds and follow you home.
>> It may amaze you: Top 13 most famous Vietnam pagodas from North to South
5 - Vietnamese Lunar New Year games
On the occasion of Tet, each locality organizes folk fun activities such as swinging, tug of war, catching ducks, eateries, ... Not only creating a joyful atmosphere. But this is also an opportunity to introduce folk games to the younger generation and preserve the cultural beauty.
Cultural and spiritual activities to visit the pagoda and pray for blessings at the beginning of Vietnamese New Year such as:
Yen Tu Pagoda Festival at Truc Lam Yen Tu Cultural Center, Thuong Yen Cong Commune, Uong Bi City, Quang Ninh Province. From 10 to 30 of lunar March.
- Huong pagoda festival at Huong Son commune, My Duc district, Hanoi. From lunar January 6 - lunar March 30.
- Tay Ho temple festival at No. 52, Dang Thai Mai Street, Quang An Ward, Tay Ho District, Hanoi. From lunar January 15 to 20.
IV - Vietnam New Year traditions and customs
On the Lunar New Year in Vietnam, there are also a number of customs and rituals that have become common standards for any family in all regions of Vietnam.
1 - “Neu” tree to expel evil spirits
“Neu” tree is usually a small bamboo or neohouzeaua tree with relative height and hung many different objects such as betel nut, flute, metal pieces of various sizes. When the wind blows, these objects collide with each other to emit a tinkling sound combined with the sound of firecrackers in order to dispel evil spirits.
According to the conception of the Vietnamese, the tree has the meaning of preventing demons from the East Sea to the mainland where the people live. Decorating trees for Tet Vietnamese New Year is beloved by many children.
2 - Five fruits tray for praying
The fruit tray displayed on the Vietnamese Tet ancestral altar must have all five different fruits. The five fruits represent the five blessings in Buddhism: richness - wealth - long life - health - peacefulness. Some types of fruit that are often in the five-fruit tray in Tet festival in Vietnam include grapefruit - watermelon, persimmon - mandarin, pear, pomegranate, peach, apricot, apple, dragon fruit, coconut, fig, papaya, and mango.
3 - First person to enter the house
According to Vietnamese conception, the first person entering the house in the new year brings luck and convenience to the homeowner in the next year. Therefore, many Vietnamese families often choose the person who matches the head of the household’s age, has a fulfilled and happy life to come to the house after Vietnamese New Year's Eve for a wish of a peaceful and successful year.
4 - The concept of the first 3 days of the new year
The first 3 days of the new year are believed to have an impact on the householder's whole year. Therefore, on the Tet holiday, Vietnamese people often give each other best wishes, be good-tempered, and warm to each other. Anything unhappy in the old year is dismissed.
In particular, during the first three days of the Vietnamese New Year Festival, people often abstain from sweeping and dumping garbage. It is believed that if the house is swept in the first three days of Tet, the whole year the family will fall into poverty, the god of wealth will disappear and money will not be able to reach the family.
Related article: List of public holidays in Vietnam
5 - Choose the date of the first departure
Vietnamese people often choose the good times, good days, and good directions for departing at the beginning of the year in order to bring blessings and prosperity for themselves. This is a feng shui religious activity that is trusted and applied by many Vietnamese people.
6 - Vietnamese lucky money
Source: Indochina Voyages
At the beginning of a new year, people will put money in red envelopes called lucky money and give them to children and wish them to have a healthy year, study well. They can also be given to the elders with the wish that their parents live a long, happy life with their family. Besides the desire of bringing good luck to the recipient, lucky money also creates a happy and exciting atmosphere for the first days of the year.
IV - Fun facts about Lunar Tet Holiday in Vietnam
1 - The holiday takes place from mid-January to near the end of February according to the solar calendar and comes earlier than that in China because of the time zone difference. Every 23 years, Vietnam welcomes Tet 1 day before China.
2 - In the 12 zodiac system, the fourth zodiac animal in Vietnam is a cat while it is a rabbit in China and many other countries
3 - The first days of the new year, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are quieter than normal days.
4 - Top 4 most popular Vietnamese New Year wishes
5 - In Vietnam, the Southerners usually prefer apricot - chrysanthemum, while the people in the North and Central often love having peaches and kumquats in their houses.
With the information that we have just shared, we hope that you have a relative overview of Vietnam New Year also known as Vietnamese Tet Lunar New Year.