Vietnamese Lunar New Year

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Vietnamese Lunar New Year or Tết is the most important celebration in Vietnamese culture. The Tết word is a shortened version of Tết Nguyên Đán for “Feast of the First Morning of the First Day”. Tết celebrates the arrival of spring based on the lunar calendar, which usually has the date falling in January or February.

Vietnamese prepares for Tet by cooking special foods and cleaning their house. There are a lot of customs practiced during Tet such as visiting a friend or relative’s house on the first day of the new year (xông nhà), ancestral worship, wishing New Year’s greetings, giving lucky money to children and elder people.

Tet is also an occasion for pilgrims and family reunions. During Tet, Vietnamese visits their relatives for lucky (chúc tết) then pagodas and temples to forgetting all difficulties of the previous year and hoping better for the upcoming year.

Like other Asian countries, Vietnamese believe that the color of red and yellow will bring good fortune, which may explain why these colors can be seen everywhere in Lunar New Year. People consider what they do on the dawn of Tet will determine their fate for the whole year, hence people always smile and behave as nice as they can in the hope for a better year.

At the start of Tet festival, Ong Tao, the god of the Hearth goes to the abode of the Jade Emperor to give his annual report on family members. People are keen that Ong Tau makes a favourite port so prior to his departure, houses are thoroughly cleaned or even renovated. Ong Tau returns and is welcomed back with fireworks and gongs. During this time, people will avoid bad thoughts or arguments in case they allow bad spirits into the house.

A popular event to mark new year is the Flower Street in Ho Chi Minh City, which attracts over one million visitors each year. The animal of the new year will be displayed along with many flowers.

The most popular food of the festival is banh chung (banh tet), which is made of sticky rice, meat and green beans, and spices wrapped in a leaf and boiled for half a day. The legend is that this delicacy was invented over two thousand years ago by a prince in the Hung dynasty and the king was so impressed by the simplicity and humbleness by this gift that he named the prince as his heir.

During Tet, the cities become less busy as people return to their home towns to be with friends and families. Businesses are closed during Tet.

If you visit Vietnam at this time of year, be aware that most of the country will be closed down for Tet, and that local transport services are stretched to the limit and international flights are very busy catering for Vietnamese people returning home from overseas for Tet.

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