Tet – How the Vietnamese welcome the lunar new year

Tet is the traditional lunar new year in Vietnam, falling in late January or early February every year.

Tết comes from “Tết Nguyên Đán” that end the lunar year and begins a new one.

lunar new year vietnam
The Lunar New Year in Vietnam | © Dustin_Do/pixabay

Tết Nguyên Đán seems difficult to call for most of the foreigners, so a shorter word is Tet or Tết. It is easier, isn’t it?

Tet covers four days, the ending day of the 12th lunar month, and the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd days of the first lunar one.

Many Asian countries also welcome the lunar new year, but Vietnam has unique traditions and rich culture showing during Tet.

Let’s discover how the Vietnamese people welcome Tet!

Prepare for Tet

The Vietnamese people start preparing plenty of things for Tet at the beginning of the 12th lunar month, which is also called “Tháng Chạp”.

Typically, candies and dry industrial products appear a lot in the local markets and supermarkets in Vietnam.

Tet Market
Tet market in Vietnam | @chuchu468

Visiting these places during that time, you can find colorful stalls and very active trading life, which offer so good chance for beautiful photos.

Although plenty of goods display, the price starts going up. The bargaining of the market culture reduces or disappears because of busy exchange. Most people buy and sell quicker than normal days.

Many fashion shops show new clothes, so many models of the previous months are sales off.

Going shopping for Tet is a fun activity for most people in Vietnam, which gives so many memories of childhood.

Organize Tất Niên – Year-end celebration

Tất Niên – year-end celebration is one of the vital activities to welcome Tet.

Tất Niên is to say goodbye the old year and to push the bad luck away to welcome the new and lucky things.

Tat Nien
Worshipping Tat Nien | @pi0314.luck

Following the traditional lunar new year, Tất Niên falls on the last day of the lunar year, the 29th or 30th day.

In modern life, many families are busier during the days near Tet for business. Thus, they organize the year-end celebration earlier.

You can find some Tất Niên opened from the 16th day of the last lunar month. And plenty of companies also do this celebration.

If you stay in Vietnam during this period, possibly some neighbors invite you to join the year-end party. When taking part in this party, you do not need to carry any gift, just bring your smiles there.

Join Tết Flower Markets

One of the top things before Tet contributing to the colors and lively atmosphere of Tet is flower markets.

Tet Flower Market
Tet Flower Market | © Vietnamdrive

Since the 20th of the 12th lunar month, from the big parks to the streets in most cities begin displaying flowers and bonsais.

Thousands of blossoms create different colors, making the feelings of most people more exciting.

Many couples in Vietnam traditional dress – Ao dai wander besides flower pots to take pictures. The others enjoy the beauty of flowerets and buy some of them to decorate the houses.

Everywhere in Vietnam, you can see the flower markets. In Hanoi, more flowers care around Hoan Kiem Lake. Different colors of thousand of flowers stay in front of the Imperial Citadel or along the Perfume River in Hue City. At Nguyen Hue walking street in Ho Chi Minh City, flower arts cover along the road. All create catching-eye paintings in Vietnam.

Worship the kitchen gods (Lễ Cúng Ông Táo)

Tet feelings have come clearly since the 23rd of the last lunar month when mót people start worshipping the kitchen gods who will go up to heaven.

The kitchen gods take care of the fire to keep warmness and all activities of the family.

The altar of Ong Tao can site in the kitchen or near the ancestor’s one.

The offerings for the kitchen gods are careful to prepare, including food, chicken, pork; depending on each family, these offerings can be changed. However, fresh carps still e (that the gods carry to go up to heaven) are also available there to put away in the river or lake after worshipping.

carp fish
Carp is one of the vehicles for the Kitchen Gods. | © Vietnamdrive

Despites in each region in Vietnam, vehicles of Ong Tao are different. The alive carps are the traditional animals in North Vietnam for transferring the gods while paper horses can be used in the middle area, and a coupe horse and donkey present in South Vietnam.

Although there are different offerings, most people have the same belief that the kitchen gods carry the good things of the family to tell the heaven king. Thus, all members of the family have good luck, good health, and favorable business in the new year.

Clean the house and ancestor altar

Cleaning the house and ancestor altar is a required tradition for all Vietnamese people to have a good and lucky year.

Washing house as well as decorating it also means pushing the bad things going away from the family, creating a chance to achieve good luck in the next year.

welcome lunar new year
Decorate the house to welcome Tet. | @___cindy.ngo___

Floors – doors – windows – beds – ceilings must be cleaned carefully, ensuring no dust and no spider nets still stay in the house.

Besides that, cleaning the ancestor altar can be allowed to do during this time, usually from 22nd to 26th of the last lunar month.

Typically, the Vietnamese people avoid touching the ancestors’ incense urns all year round. Thus, they just have a chance to wipe and take the incense-stick roots out of the urns when preparing for the new year.

Cleaning the altar belongs to the spiritual culture. Thus, the man of the family will do this work, and noticeably, to avoid breaking incense urns.

  • The work begins with taking all things from the altar unless the urns, clean the surface of the altar.
  • Clean or wash the dust from worshipping objects.
  • Take the incense roots out of the urns, and keep at least one, usually three sticks.
  • Change the sand inside the urns as well.

The sand must come from a clean area, quite nice. So, you can find many people selling sand in the markets in Vietnam before Tet for this purpose.

After all, put everything back on the altar. Do not change any sites of worshipping objects. The significant work is done!

Finish work and pay the debt before 30 Tet

30 Tet is the last day of the old year, one of the remarkable days during the time to prepare for this special festival.

The people seem busier and try to finish most of the work to avoid carrying them to the new year, including paying off debt.

Everything is ready for Tet finished on the ending day of the old year. The old work or debt still moving over to the new year can be considered a bad thing in the year.

Most families store a lot of food because the local markets will not open during the few days during the Tet holidays.

The more new things are prepared, the more luck comes to the family. Thus, most people try to buy or change new necessary products, typically new clothes.

A cultural belief is that if you want to push the troubles of the old year away, you need to wash carefully before ending the year, from the afternoon to the night of the last day.

Washing can help the body get fresh and exciting to welcome a new year with totally brand-new feelings, which reduces stress or worries. Will you do it?

Cook Banh Chung – Banh Tet

The Vietnamese people greeting the traditional lunar new year usually cook Bánh Chưng – Bánh Tét on the last day of the old year. While cooking them, the members of the family stay together to welcome the eve of Tet New Year’s Eve.

Banh Chung and Banh Tet
Banh Chung and Banh Tet | © Hoangnha90/pixabay

Bánh Chưng – Bánh Tét is the traditional cake in Vietnam, made of sticky rice with the fillings of pork, mung beans, peanuts, peppers, red onions, and cooking oil.

Bánh Chưng has a square shape popular in North Vietnam. Besides the savory filling as above, some areas also make it sweet.

Bánh Tét, which comes from Tết meaning cake in Tết holidays, owns a cylinder and the same fillings as Banh Chung. When cutting Bánh Tét, it forms a round appearance.

These two cakes stay together, creating the Yin-Yang meaning. Therein, Banh Chung presents Yin that is the image of the earth although the cake has the appearance of a square, and Banh Tet symbolizes heaven when it figures the round.

These cakes takes a very important role in the agriculture feature of Vietnamese culture and cannot be indispensable in the offerings to worship the ancestor.

Greet the eve of Tet New Year’s Eve

The eve of Tet (Đêm Giao Thừa) is the time of bidding farewell to the old year and welcoming the new year, and it is the holiest time.

Most people consider the celebration of new year’s eve is a significant time for all family members.

The Vietnamese people have to organize the offerings to worship in and outdoors, meaning worshipping the ancestors of the family and the outdoor gods.

Tet offerings
Tet offerings | @iam_phanhlee

The offerings are prepared before midnight of the eve. At right midnight, the people start praying.

The offerings of the outdoor altar include a young rooster, Banh Chung, candies, nuts, betel leaves and nuts, fruits, wine, water, incense, and flowers.

After praying outside, the host comes to worship the indoor ancestors. The offering comes less than the outdoor worshipping because the owner prays the ancestor during the year-end celebration.

The indoor offerings can include Banh Chung, fruits, flowers that are kept there for a long time, water, and wine.

Worshipping on new year’s eve is to wish them good luck, prosperity, good health, happiness for family and relatives.

After worship, all members of the family come together to enjoy the party, forming the first important family reunion.

Enjoy 3 days of the lunar new year in Vietnam

The first day of the lunar new year is considered as the most important day of the year.

Most Vietnamese people believe if the first day of the year is good, they will have an easy year.

lunar new year
Welcome the lunar new year | ©loilamtan/pixabay

Thus, the first person who comes to the house is really crucial for the owners, calling “Xông đất” – warming up the house. A family would like to choose and invite an active person with the best zodiac animal suitable for the owner.

Usually, the host invites a relative or friend to come to the house as the first guest to carry good luck for the family. On other hand, the owner has to prepare lucky money to give to the first VIP who will bring good luck in the new year.

Besides, on the first day of the lunar new year, children wear new clothes and “Chúc Tết” – saying greetings of Tết to the elders. Then, their parents and grandparents give them lucky money in the red envelopes to wish all things fabulous.

After those activities, they can go out together visiting other relatives, or coming to the pagodas to pray for good luck for the year.

On the second day of the lunar new year, most people come back family and relatives of the wife (if they are close together), calling Tết Mẹ or Tết Ngoại.

During the second day, the Vietnamese people also visit neighbors. And you can join a lot of parties with plenty of food and beers.

The third day of Tet is the time to come to see friends and teachers.

The students often visit the old teachers to show their respect because many people live afar away, so Tet is time they come hometown. (In Vietnam, another special day for the teachers is the 20th November – The Vietnamese Teacher’s Day).

Then, people meet old friends and enjoy the party or go to a beautiful landscape to share time together.

The third day is also time to worship to end Tet, calling Lễ Tạ – meaning stopping Tết.

The owner caries most of the food left to a table in front of the altar, also including a few raw rice and money, to ask for the best fortunes. A lot of wishes!!!


Conclusion

Tết – the traditional Vietnamese lunar new year is the mark to begin the series of festival organizing along with the country.

The people will live in the vital tradition of the community and show respect together when all people living far away want to come back to their hometowns.

Everyone opens parties, games, and exciting together. All of these activities help people relax, reduce stress after working hard for a year.

Also, it is time to wish the gods and deities give a fortune, good lucks, happiness, and prosperity.

Tet is also the time of family reunion. Also, all members can stand in front of the ancestor altar to show respect to the previous generations and can live gain on the homeland.

The traditional Vietnam lunar new year is the festival of living people and their ancestors, creating a unique meeting of different generations.

About the author

The editorial staff of Vietnamdrive is a team of travel experts managed by Mr. Thom who has worked in tourism for 14 years. Trusted by thousands of tourists from all over the world.