In Vietnam, Tet holiday is considered as the most important holiday, even more important than the New Year according to the Western. Why is that? What is the difference between Tet holiday “Lunar New Year” and Western New Year?

Let’s find out!

1, Why lunar new year is the most important event in Vietnam?

Lunar New Year, also known as Tet, is considered one of the biggest and most important holidays of Vietnamese people. It marks the intersection between the old year and the new year, between an operation cycle of heaven and earth.

This event is an opportunity to look back to the origin of every family, they will express their gratitude to the ancestors for having created the long-lasting values of the family. That is the spiritual and also the deep emotional value of Vietnamese people. According to the concept of Vietnamese people, Tet is the day of reunion. Every year, no matter what job they do, wherever they are, Vietnamese are looking forward to coming back to reunite with their families in Tet holiday.

The Lunar New Year is also considered as a manifestation of the relationship between man and nature in the spirit of agricultural culture and farmers. Therefore, Tet is an opportunity to remember the gods related to the good or bad crops.

Every year, Tet is celebrated on the first day of the first lunar month in Vietnam and in some other countries where the Vietnamese community lives.

Tet holiday Vietnamese Lunar New Year

Origin of Tet holiday

Since East Asia culture belonged to rice agriculture civilization and agricultural needs, They divided the time in a year into 24 different periods (and for each period, there is a “New Year’s Eve”), in which the most important period is the beginning of a period of cultivation and cultivation, which was later known as the Lunar New Year.

The first hypothesis

The origin of Tet is still controversial, but most information shows that Tet holiday originated from China and was introduced to Vietnam in the 1,000 years of Chinese domination, when Vietnam was under the rule of Chinese courts such as the Zhao Dynasty, Han Dynasty, Tang Dynasty, Southern Han Dynasty,etc since 111 BC and 938 was believed to be the time ended the thousand years of Northern domination

During the Northern colonial period, the Chinese dynasties constantly assimilated the Vietnamese to turn Vietnam into a Chinese district, and the Chinese civilization also entered Vietnam during this period.

The second hypothesis

On the other hand, according to the legend “Banh chung, banh day”, Vietnamese people had a Tet festival before the time of King Hung, that is, before 1000 years of colonization. 

The legend has it that the 6th King Hung King, intended to give one of his son the throne and whoever made the most meaningful and delicious dishes for the beginning of Spring will be give the throne. After that, the 18th son of Hung Vuong, Tiet Lieu (also known as Lang Lieu) chose good glutinous rice to make square-shaped cake  to symbolize the Earth, called “Banh Chung” and make a round cake, to remind of the sky, called “Banh day”. The king then found it delicious and meaningful and gave the throne to Tiet Lieu

Since then, whenever the Lunar New Year comes, people make Banh Chung and Banh Day to make offerings to Ancestors and Heaven and Earth.

However, we still don’t have obvious evidence to tell which one is true. What we can clearly see is that the Tet of Vietnam and China have an influence on each other, yet still have their own characteristics.

Tet holiday Vietnamese Lunar New Year

During the Lunar New Year, Vietnamese people make Banh Chung and Banh Day to make offerings to Ancestors and Heaven and Earth

Vietnamese weather during Tet holiday

In the North: The weather often maintains a moderate coldness of winter with a little sunshine. As for the New Year days, there will be drizzling rain which is typical of spring in the North. However, the temperature of the northern region in recent years tends to be higher. It will be about 17-19 degrees Celsius, the highest daytime temperature can reach 23-24 degrees C.

In the Central Region: The Central Region is cool with moderate temperatures. Particularly in the North Central Central region, it is likely to have rain and freezing weather at the time of cold air. During the Lunar New Year period, the weather will be dry, and the southern of Central region is likely to experience hot weather with a high temperature of 35 – 36 degrees.

In the South: The Central Highlands and Southern provinces can experience hot weather in the Southeast with the highest temperature at 35-36 degrees. Tet weather in Southern provinces is favorable for Spring tourism, there may be local showers from time to time.

Vietnamese common custom in Tet holiday?

Before New Year’s Eve

Taking “Ong Cong, Ong Tao” to heaven ceremony

Every year on the 23rd day of the 12th month according to the lunar calendar, Vietnamese people will hold a ceremony to take Land Genie (ong Cong) and the Kitchen God (ong Tao) to the heaven. Vietnamese people believe that the 2 Gods determine the merit for the family, this merit is due to the righteous deeds of the homeowners and their family members. The altar of the gods is usually located near the kitchen, on which there is an altar written in Chinese characters.Depending on the customs of each region, the offering ceremony will be different, but the offerings are usually: fruits, three costumes, incense, sticky rice, boiled chicken and carp. 

Every year, on the 23rd of December, the day when the gods go up to heaven, it is said that they use carps as their transportation. Therefore, releasing the carps into the river is also a tradition on this day.

Cleaning the house

Tet is a time when family members have to spend time cleaning the house and rearranging new appliances, preparing new clothes for Tet

Vietnamese people believe that after days of cleaning up, the house becomes clean, glossy, bringing joyful and lucky atmosphere to the family. The Vietnamese also said that in the first days of the year, we should not sweep the house because all the fortune will follow that go away. Until the third or fourth day, they will sweep the house.

Buying Peach blossom or Apricot blossom to decorate the house

In the North, people often prepare a branch of peach blossom to decorate the house because it is considered as a harbinger of spring weather during the  early frigid of the year in the North. The beauty of it has brought warmth, joy and hope to every home in the new year of prosperity. 

Tet holiday Vietnamese Lunar New Year

Peach blossom

Whereas, in the South, every family wants an apricot branch or a pot of apricot blossom placed in front of the altar to pay homage to their ancestors and pray for the good luck of their family all year round.

Putting up the New Year tree (Cay neu)

New Year tree is quite similar to bamboo but with smaller leaves.

Putting up the New Year tree is a custom from the ancient time and still exists in the North and North of Central Vietnam. According to old folklore, erecting trees will help tov to ward off evil spirits. In Northern Vietnam, the New Year tree is usually erected on the 23rd of the twelfth lunar  to the 7th of the first lunar month.

However, this custom has recently been fallen into oblivion in the urban regions, and only well kept in the mountainous areas.

Making “Banh Chung” together

“Banh chung” and “banh tet”” are typical cuisine on New Year in Vietnam, which are all variations made from sticky rice. Banh chung is the popular dish in the Northern provinces while ‘banh tet’ is the symbol of Tet in the Central and Southern provinces in Vietnam.

Therefore, from the 26th to the 30th of the first lunar month, the old men and women will make “Banh chung” and cook them in one day and one night.

Displaying the five-fruit tray

The five-fruits displayed show the wishes of the homeowner through their name, color and arrangement.

On this day, in addition to expressing the spiritual meaning of bringing luck and prosperity to the homeowners, the five fruits tray is also displayed to make indoor decorations on Tet holiday and is often prepared meticulously and elaborately. 

At the New Year’s Eve and on the first days of Lunar New Year

Welcoming New Year’s Eve

New Year Eve is one of the common activities on the occasion of New Year, taking place at 0:00 on the last day of the year. This activity is similar to New Year’s Eve in Western country, when people gather together and start to count down to New Years.

On New Year’s Eve, localities across the country will perform epic fireworks for about 15 minutes. Right at 12pm on New Year’s Eve, fireworks will be launched into the sky so everyone can say goodbye to the old year and greet the new year

Incense to the spirits of ancestors. 

Before New Year’s Eve, the families offered incense to the spirits of grandparents and ancestors. 

In every Vietnamese family, the “Fairy family altar” is an expression of the Vietnamese people’s tribute to their ancestors and deceased relatives with carefully selected fruit trays;

Those are the moral values and aesthetic values that Vietnamese people want to achieve every time Tet comes.

Giving lucky money and wishes

Giving lucky money and wishes are the custom that goes together, usually takes place during Tet.

When children and grandchildren come to celebrate the new year, their parents and grandparents will give lucky money to their children with the wish to be healthy, happy, and good kids.

Tet holiday Vietnamese Lunar New Year

First footing tradition

This is a long-standing and unique tradition of the Vietnamese people and still up to this day, after the New Year’s Eve. Vietnamese people believe that the first person to enter the house with the New Year’s greetings will represent how their next year will be.

Therefore, Vietnamese family will choose someone with humor, generosity and elegance to be the first visitor.

Typical dishes on Tet holiday

“Banh chung” and ‘banh tet’ are one of the most typical and play an important role for eating customs in Vietnam. “Banh chung” contains sticky rice, green bean and pork as main ingredients, and often has the square shape, which is popular in Northern regions. Meanwhile, in the Central and the South of Vietnam, there is ‘banh tet’ instead of ‘banh chung’. Although they have the same ingredients, they are in cylinder shape, when you cut it into small pieces, it has the thing round shape and is very easy to eat.

Pickled vegetables: Every region has its own dish to help diners not to get bored with all the dishes made from meat, which are pickled vegetables. While Northern people make pickled onions, people in the Central and Southern regions make pickled Chinese onions.

Candied fruits, which are usually used to serve the guests. There are many types of jams: ginger jam, pumpkin jam, tomato jam, apple jam, coconut jam, kumquat jam, durian jam, etc depending on each region.

Tet holiday Vietnamese Lunar New Year

Vietnamese meatloaf: This dish is made from ground meat mixed with spices like pepper and cinnamon flavor and then it’s wrapped in banana leaves and bolied. This dish can be reserved in the fridge to eat in many days during Tet. In the North, the meat used is pork wile in the Centre and the South, people use beef to make this dish.

Tet drinks: The most popular is still alcohol. Traditional ethnic wines such as aromatic sticky rice, sticky yellow flower (of the Kinh people). Nowadays there are wider choice because of the appearance of western wines, beers and soft drinks.

Tet holiday’s meals: Vietnamese people often celebrate Tet with big meals. The dishes in many families can have boiled chicken, Vietnamese rice balls, bamboo shoots, mushrooms with pork feet, chicken vermicelli, fried spring rolls, pickled onions, etc.

How To Celebrate Vietnam Lunar New Year Like A Native

If you have the opportunity to visit Vietnam right during Tet holiday. You should make use of this time to have the most fulfilling cultural experience of your trip by participating in some following traditional activities:

– Wearing traditional clothes like Ao dai, which is the most popular traditional customs in Tet holiday. You can have the feeling like you’re now part of Vietnam and can be more excited to discover this biggest holiday.

– Participating in Vietnamese family meals. To repeat an earlier point, during Tet, Vietnamese people often prepare lots of big meals including almost all traditional dishes. So if you are into food and curious about Vietnamese cuisine, this should be on your must-do list.

– Saying “Chuc mung nam moi”, which means “Happy New Year”. This is like the first thing people say to each other when they meet during Tet before having a small talks or chatting.

– Joining with Vietnamese family to make “Banh Chung”. This activity has always attracted a lot of foreign tourists coming to Vietnam during Tet. You will have the chance to learn about the ingredients, the method and learn the process of making this special dish,

– Asking for letters: The tradition of asking for letters at the beginning of the year has become an indispensable traditional cultural beauty of Vietnamese people, to wish a new year with many peace and luck. It is also the beauty of Vietnamese culture in the eyes of many foreigners, including international diplomats in Vietnam.

Vietnamese taboos you need to know

You must have heard about this saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, this is totally for this Tet discovering journey. There are certain things that you should avoid doing when coming to Vietnam at Tet. Typically, Vietnamese people have some taboos as follows:

        On the first day of the New Year, people are very cavalier to ask for fire from their houses, because they believe fire is the symbol lucky. Giving someone red on the first day of the New Year, the whole year in the house will meet many unfortunate things such as making a loss, making a mess, going out to the street or having a wind and wind …

        On the first day of the year as well as the first day of the month, people are very taboo about borrowing or repaying loans. In the old days, people should not borrow money or furniture in the first days of the new year, which can make us fall into poverty all year, unlucky.

        In addition, the elderly also advise their children on this day not to break dishes, warm dishes, quarrel, swear at each other, abstain from unhappy things happening to the family. And you should also notice this.

We hope you have had more insights into Vietnamese Tet holiday and are excited to discover this holiday at least once. It’s totally not a waste of time.

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