I - General
It can be said that Tet is the most important holiday in the cultural and spiritual life of the Vietnamese people.
1 - The history and the meaning of Tet Holiday in Vietnam
Over the past 1000 years of North domination, Vietnamese culture has also been strongly influenced by Chinese culture. In particular, Tet is also one of the cultural features imported from China at that time and preserved to this day.
Modern life and work make many people work in faraway places from relatives. On the occasion of Tet Lunar New Year, wherever we are, doing any job, everyone temporarily stops his/her work to return to gather and reunite with the family. The activities carried out during Tet always clearly show the Vietnamese traditional ethics: "When drinking water, remember its source".
2 - When is Vietnamese New Year Festival
Because of the rule that there will be a leap month every 3 lunar years, for example in 2020 there were be 2 Fourth lunar months, 2024 will have 2 Fifth lunar months,... Tet usually ranges from January 21 to February 19 of the solar calendar, corresponding to January 1 - January 5 of the lunar calendar.
- The Lunar New Year in 2021 starts from February 12, 2021 to February 16, 2021 (January 1 - January 5, 2021 of the lunar calendar).
- The Lunar New Year in Vietnam in 2022 starts from February 1, 2021 to February 5, 2022 (January 1 - January 5, 2022 in lunar calendar).
According to the old beliefs, the first day of the new year is known as “the day of the chicken”, the second is known as “the birthday of all dogs”, the third is about pigs, the old saying goes “a fat pig at the door”, the fourth day is of the goat breed with the saying “three rams bring bliss”, the fifth day is called “the day of the cow”, the sixth is the day of the horse breed, the 7th day is the “day of man” and finally the 8th day grain is born.
Because of that, Vietnamese New Year Festival usually lasts from the 1st to the 7th of January. 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, visiting the pagoda,...
At the same time, during one week before the Lunar New Year, there are also many religious and spiritual activities by which the Vietnamese to send gratitude to the gods and ancestors who have blessed a year of lush crops, good weather, and favorable life.
Note: 7 days before and after Tet Holiday in Vietnam, the demand for nationwide travel will increase, so the buses are often full, overloaded and congested. Some accommodation services, restaurants, transportation ... will also stop working during this time, so service quality is not high, cost is high and difficult to find.
3 - The difference between Vietnamese New Year and Chinese New Year
Due to the time zone difference, in a few years, Vietnam will celebrate 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 blossom - apricot blossom, bamboo tree, sticky rice cake...
II - How is Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebrated?
Important rituals associated with the festival, such as:
1 - Ong Cong – Ong Tao festival (known as Land Genie - Kitchen Gods festival)
In Vietnamese cultural beliefs, Ong Cong - Ong Tao is the representative of 03 gods in the house: God of Land, God of Kitchen, God of House. Not only is the guardian to protect the household from evil spirits, but these three gods are also responsible for recording the merits and crimes of the landlord so that at the end of the year, they should report to the Jade Emperor, based on which the Jade Emperor will reward or punish each person.
The 23rd day of the Twelfth Lunar Month (about 6-7 days before Vietnamese Tet Festival) every year is Ong Cong - Ong Tao festival. On this day every Vietnamese family will prepare a tray of rice for worship (usually including: sticky rice, chicken, sausage, spring roll, bamboo shoot soup/vermicelli,...), incense, flowers, white wine, two live carps, votive papers. After finishing the ceremony, the head of the family will bring the carps to the river and lake to release them, symbolizing a means of transport for Ong Cong and Ong Tao to fly to heaven to give the report to the Jade Emperor.
2 - Year end party
Year-end party in the Tet Holiday in Vietnam is an activity that marks the end of the old year and prepares to welcome a new year. It is carried out on the last day of the lunar year with activities such as: Celebrating the year-end, the year-end party.
On this day, the head of the family will prepare two rice trays, one to worship the ancestors and another one to worship the earth and the heaven, which is usually placed in the front yard of the house. 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, at the same time express the expectation of the family head for a successful, lucky new year.
It is the last meal of the year when all family members gather together to eat and talk about the past year. It is also a time that each family member enjoys a warm and cozy space after a year of hard work and study.
3 - Vietnamese New Year's Eve
New Year's Eve is the time between an old year and a new year, usually from 0:00a.m. on January 1 of the lunar calendar. At this sacred moment, there are many exciting New Year celebrations and activities such as: New Year's Eve Offering, New Year's meal and making good wishes for everyone around.
Vietnamese New Year's Eve Offering
The head of the family often prepares a tray of food including boiled chicken, bamboo shoot soup, spring rolls, stir-fried dishes, fresh flowers, banh chung,... to put on the ancestral altar and worship at the moment of the New Year, wishing for a prosperous, blissful new year.
In big cities such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang,... there will be cultural programs and fireworks shows 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 will send 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.
In addition, there are many other art programs, festivals and entertainment that we will introduce in more detail in Part III of the article below.
III - Other activities on Tet Holiday in Vietnam
Activities that usually take place before, during and after the Lunar New Year (1st - 7th, 1st lunar month) 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
Of course, Tet is also indispensable for Vietnamese traditional dishes such as: Chưng cake - Tét cake, 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,... Chung cake making process from cake wrapping, cake boiling to cake opening have become the most impressive things that creates the symbolic feature of the Tet atmosphere in Vietnam.
4 - Going to the temple, picking buds early in the year
It is unknown since when the Buddhist spiritual beliefs have been deeply ingrained in the life of every Vietnamese person. 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.
5- Vietnamese Lunar New Year games
On the occasion of Tet, each locality (commune - ward) will organize 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 in the beginning of Vietnamese New Year such as:
- Yen Tu Pagoda Festival, address of Truc Lam Yen Tu Cultural Center, Thuong Yen Cong Commune, Uong Bi City, Quang Ninh Province. Time: from the 10th to the 30th of the Third Lunar Month.
- Huong pagoda festival, address of Huong Son commune, My Duc district, Hanoi city. Time: January 6 - March 30 on lunar calendar, February 15 - 20 festival.
- Bai Dinh pagoda festival, far away from Gia Sinh, Gia Vien district, Ninh Binh province. Time: January 6 - March 30 in lunar calendar.
Phu Tay Ho Festival, address: No. 52, Dang Thai Mai Street, Quang An Ward, Tay Ho District, Hanoi. Time: from the 15th to the 20th of the First Lunar Month.
IV - Vietnam New Year traditions and custom
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.
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
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 year
The first 3 days of the new year are believed to have an impact on the householder's whole year. Therefore, on 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 Vietnamese New Year Festival, people often abstain from sweeping and dumping garbage. Because 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.
5 - Choose the date of the first departure
Vietnamese people often choose good time, 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
Wishes in Vietnamese
Meaning in English
Chúc mừng năm mới
Happy new year
An khang thịnh vượng
Safety good, health prosperity
Vạn sự như ý
Everything goes well
Cung hỷ phát tài
Congratulations and be prosperous
5 - In Vietnam, the Southerners usually prefer apricot - chrysanthemum, while the people in the North and Central often leave peaches and kumquats in their homes.
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.