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Vietnamese New Year (Tet) – The most important holiday of Vietnamese culture

The most important holiday in Vietnamese culture, Tet brings love and hope, denotes family kinship and friends, and promises a better year ahead. If you want to learn about local life in Vietnam, there could not  be a better time than Tet

1. What is Tet?

The full name for Tet is Tet Nguyen Dan. It is the most important and widely celebrated public festival of the year in Vietnam. It is the occasion for Vietnamese to express their respects to ancestors as well as welcome the Lunar New Year with family members. Overall, the Tet holiday for Vietnam is a bit like the Spring Festival for the Chinese: every family will get together to have big meals to welcome the New Year.

2. When is Tet?

In 2023, Tet is on January 22nd, Year of the Cat (Coming)

Tet is based on the lunar calendar and is generally celebrated on the same day as the Chinese New Year. The date changes annually but falls between mid-January and late February. Most Vietnamese people will have seven days off for Tet.

Tet celebrations can range from 3 days and continue for up to one week. The festival is split into the day before New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. All of these days correspond to the Vietnamese lunar calendar, so they will happen on a different date every year.

3. How is Tet celebrated?

Because Tet plays an important role in Vietnamese religious beliefs, Vietnamese people will begin to prepare well before the upcoming Tet. To get rid of the bad luck of the old year, people will spend a few days cleaning the house, polishing all the furniture, and even repainting and decorating the house with kumquat trees, peach branches, and many colorful flowers… The ancestral altar is carefully decorated with a tray of five fruits, votive papers, and many religious rituals. Everyone, especially children, buys new clothes and shoes to wear on New Year’s Day.

Traditional Vietnamese New Year lasts for at least 7 days, so this holiday is divided into different phases:

Phase 1: Prepare before Tet

This period usually lasts from the 22nd to the 30th day of the lunar calendar. During this period, the Vietnamese will clean the house, throw away the old or no longer used items, and paint the house to make the new house look more beautiful. After that, the Vietnamese will buy ornamental plants and fresh flowers to decorate the house. Next is the worshiping ceremony to see Mr.tao off to Heaven. According to the Vietnamese point of view, Mr. Tao is the god who governs the house and the kitchen, bringing peace to the owner.

The general process is as follows (all dates quoted in the lunar calendar):

1. Ông Công, Ông Táo Day (Kitchen God day) – December 23rd

2. Wrapping Chung cake – December 26-28th

3. Family reunion and Tất niên – December 30th

Phase 2: During the Tet

This period starts on New Year’s Eve and lasts until at least the 6th day of the Lunar New Year. At the time of New Year’s Eve (i.e. 24h on the 30th day to 1h on the 1st day of the lunar calendar), Vietnamese people will joyfully welcome the new year. Many people will do New Year’s Eve offerings, many people go to see fireworks, go to church, go to temples or go to crowded public places to celebrate the new year together.

Starting to enter the first days of the new year, Vietnamese people will have a lot of taboo customs to limit bad luck and wish for luck to come. For example, people will try not to say bad words or bad things. Instead, Vietnamese people will talk to each other gently, with more joyful stories, so that the new year will be as joyful.

According to the old custom, on the first day of Tet, Vietnamese people will go to wish their grandparents, parents, and paternal relatives. On the 2nd day there are relatives on the outside. The 3rd day is to wish the teachers who have taught them Tet New Year. From the 4th, Vietnamese people begin to wish New Year’s greetings to friends and colleagues or go out in the spring and travel more comfortably. During this period of the Traditional New Year, Vietnamese people will do many things to wish the new year to be lucky, happy and prosperous. For example, going to harvest fortune, departing on an auspicious day, starting a profession, giving lucky money / celebrating the age of each other… In the past, Vietnamese people often only celebrated Tet in their homeland, rarely going far. But now, traditional customs are no longer as focused as in the past, Vietnamese people are much more open to traditional Tet.

The general process is as follows (all dates quoted in the lunar calendar):

1. Giao thừa – New Year’s Eve: including praying sessions to God and Ancestors,

2. Xông đất  (First visit to a family in the new year).

3. First three days of the new year: visit the paternal side on the first day, the maternal side on the second day, and teachers on the third day.

4. Visiting relatives, friends, and neighbors: can take place from January 3rd – 5th

5. Hóa vàng – burn the offerings near Tet’s end for ancestors: January 4th

Phase 3: End of Tet

This is the shortest part of the Traditional New Year, each family and each locality, this part is different. This phase begins at the end of the day of phase 2 which is  after Tet.During the Tet ,Vietnamese people will do a Tet burning ceremony (end of Tet), clean up windows, remove trees and in-house furniture, and arrange the things to be put back together as usual.

After that, people will return to work and daily life. Many taboo customs no longer need to be kept. The festivals are also over, and people who go to work far away will return to their hometowns to work on their own.

The general process is as follows (all dates quoted in the lunar calendar):

1. Reopen business: usually, owners pick a good date that matches their age.

2. Tết Nguyên Tiêu: January 15th

4. Vietnamese Traditional Foods Tet Holiday

Tet foods are the most unique and diverse Vietnamese foods that best represent and reflect traditional cuisine. Here are the 4 traditional Vietnamese foods that you definitely should try during Tet – the most important holiday for Vietnamese people.

Banh Chung (Vietnamese Square Sticky rice cake)

This is the cake in Vietnamese food culture since a long time ago. According to the old legends, Banh Chung appeared in the Hung dynasty. This cake symbolizes the ground expressing gratitude to the ancestors and nature. Besides,  the process of making Banh Chung is time-consuming and requires the contribution of several people. Family members often take turns to keep a watch on the fire overnight, telling each other stories about Tet of past years.

Thit kho trung (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs)

Braised Pork with Eggs has long appeared in the rice tray of Southern families. Pork is usually bacon (bacon) or meat with both lean and fat. The meat is cut into large squares, while the large and round duck seeds mean “regular square, all peace”. As well as having to go through many hardships and hardships, there will be sweet results.

Mut (Candied Fruits)

Candied Fruit is an indispensable dish in the Lunar New Year. People prepare a box of colorful fruits at home to give to guests, friends, family, and ancestors. A typical guest will enjoy candy and roasted watermelon seeds and a couple of cups of tea.

– Pickled onion, pickled cabbage and pickled small leeks (Dua Hanh & Kieu)
– Although not everyone in Vietnam is able to eat these pickled things, they are still unquestionably one of the essential foods during Tet.

5. Traveling to Vietnam during Tet

Tet has a very special attached meaning to all Vietnamese. It is the time for everybody to come back to their hometown, gather with family, visit relatives, and have a good relaxing time after a hard-working year. If you have the opportunity to visit Vietnam during the Tet holiday, make sure you join these festive and happy moments of Vietnamese! If you are planning to join a Vietnam tour during Tet, you definitely  should not miss out on these top things to do on this special occasion.

Wandering around the streets

During Tet, the streets are appealing and decorated with Vietnamese Lunar New Year vibes. If you are into the hustle and bustle, wandering around pre-Tet streets will be your favorite thing to do since the streets are busy with the flock of Vietnamese people and the flurry of trade for pre-Tet preparation.

Tasting traditional Vietnamese Tet dishes

Another not-to-be-missed thing to do during Lunar New Year is to taste some traditional Vietnamese cuisine. In addition to customs and traditions, Tet features a wealth of traditional Vietnamese dishes that satisfy both one’s taste buds and their culinary discovery tour. So, joining a Vietnamese food tour and savoring tasty traditional dishes are the most fulfilling activities during the Tet holiday.

Visiting Vietnamese Tet markets

As the Tet holiday approaches, thousands of Vietnamese outdoor markets that sell decorations, clothes, flowers, potted plants, and various things for the Lunar New Year are opened to meet consumers’ needs. Visiting Tet markets is a must-do activity to immerse in the vibrant Tet atmosphere and get a deep insight into the local Vietnamese life. Furthermore, you’ll experience a handful of things to do at Tet markets and admire the festive atmosphere taking place only once a year.

Visiting Buddhist pagodas

In Vietnamese traditions, the Tet holiday is a busy time for Buddhists. As a part of their spiritual life, many Vietnamese people believe that Lunar New Year is the most sacred time to pay respects to their ancestors and deities. At the beginning of the holiday, many worshippers visit Buddhist pagodas to offer incense and pray for blessing, health, happiness, wellness, and fortune in the upcoming year. If one is religious, it is essential to make a pilgrimage to a Buddhist pagoda in Vietnam during Tet. There are some popular pagodas in Da Nang like Pho Quang Pagoda, Linh Ung Pagoda

Some  tips for you when traveling to Vietnam during Tet

– Be sure to book your transportation and accommodation in advance

– Have your plan prepared specially for Lunar New Year

– Dining at hotel restaurants or book tables at open restaurants in advance

–  Be a good bargainer because Tet is a special time

– Lunar New Year Eve is party time so drive carefully!

Make sure you can prepare enough visas to be able to travel and explore Tet festival in Vietnam. I am sure that it will be very interesting for you and bring you extremely memorable experiences.

Helen Nguyễn
Helen Nguyễn
I don’t feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning.
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