Tết – Lunar new year in Vietnam

Artwork on the water melon to greet the Goat year of 2015


Yeap, that’s Chinese New Year as you normally refer to. But Vietnam is not China, neither are countries in Asia where the holiday is celebrated, it should be called Lunar New Year, instead. In Vietnamese language, it is “Tết”

Tết: Tết is to mark the end of one year and the beginning of another. We stop working for around a week in order to relax after a hard working year and to greet new year. The official holiday is just now 5 days but in the rural area, it might go up to 10 days or so. We believe that if the new year start well, the whole year will be that good, not even better. We clean the house and decorate it with trees and flowers. We dress new and beautiful clothes. We smile, we sing and we drink. We pray for ourselves, and for others. Tết is the most meaningful holiday in Vietnam culture.

12 zodiac animals: Each year in Lunar new year is attributed to an animal. There are 12 in total. Mice, Buffalo, Tiger, Cat, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Money, Chicken, Dog and Pig. We believe that people who are born in a certain year will have the characteristic of the relevant animal. Horse people will travel and prefer to travel a lot. Tiger people are normally aggressive while Buffalo people are considered hard working ones.

Family reunion: Family is the center of Tết. We arrange our job and manage our time to go back home to celebrate the holiday, no matter how far we are from home. There is a very meaningful marketing campaign with the slogan “there is no as special gift as family reunion, there is no as happy Tet as when all family members show up”. That explains crazy traffic before and after Tet. The times where we share the work to clean the house, prepare foods and enjoy family time are worth the long way commuting back home.

Worship: Most Vietnamese people pray to our ancestors together with the official religion. For Tết, almost all families prepare meal to dedicate to their ancestors. The meal is composed of plentiful dishes such as chickens, sticky rice or rice, spring rolls, bamboo soup, meat rolls, etc.

New year greetings: Giving and receiving wishes at the beginning of the year is to have an upcoming year with prosperity and luck. This is one special tradition during Tet in Vietnam. We go from house to house to greet their family a good new year. Eating and drinking are normally involved.

The greeting agenda within the three official days of Tet varies. First day is for the extended family and God. We go to the pagoda or the church. We go to the cemetery. The whole extended family gather at one place to party. Second day is for friends, coworkers and neighbors. Third day is for teachers, professors and class reunion. It is not strange at all seeing people walking and driving on the street all drunk and smiley.

Lì xì: Money is put in the red envelops to give to others for luck. Adults give lì xì to children wishing them healthy growing up. Older siblings give lì xì to their younger siblings wishing them luck. Parents give lì xì to their young kids wishing them doing well at work or school. Children give lì xì to their parents wishing them good heath. So on and so forth.

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