Everything You Need To Know About Tet Celebrations In Vietnam | DO
Yes, it’s only just been Christmas, but Tet celebrations are already knocking on our Vietnamese doors! You can tell that Tet is approaching when Vietnam is getting into celebration mode and decorations are popping up all over town. Many venues will close down for the holidays, but we found several things to do with the kids this Tet holiday. But for now, the year of the Ox is coming, what is this all about? Let’s take a crash course together!
Tet celebrations mark the start of the new year
Tet is short for “Tet Nguyen Dan”, meaning “The Feast of the First Morning of the First Day.” Not a day to think light of, because it marks the beginning of the New Lunar Year, the start of spring, and it’s basically the official birthday of everyone (yes everyone) in Vietnam.
In the ‘old days’ TET celebrations marked our week of leave days and taking off on that big family vacay, but this year, as for most Vietnamese, TET is the start of beginning the year. It’s about home cooking and visiting your loved ones. And if you want any luck the coming year, you should do a thorough clean up and replace your old furniture. This will encourage the good spirits of your ancestors to visit your home. It’s also important to settle your debts and disputes. New beginnings for everyone please!
Tet celebrations: bamboo trees and fireworks
After cleaning and redecorating your home, enter the bamboo tree. Every Tet, Vietnamese families will have bamboo trees decorated with nice red paper ornaments, red lucky envelopes and bells. The color red stands for fire, which represents warmth, light and good luck. After the 7th day of Tet celebrations, the tree is removed during a special ceremony.
Another tradition is to make lots of noise to scare the bad spirits away on the night of Chinese New Year. People used to light firecrackers themselves, but this has been regulated by the government in 1995 and is now organized centrally with beautiful fireworks.
Important do’s and don’ts this Tet
Tet celebrations are not about filled stockings, but involve good old cash. All younger family members will receive red envelopes with lucky money, or li xi, as they call it here in South Vietnam. Your most senior members of the household should also receive them, to bring them good health for the coming year. Make sure you stuff the envelopes with an even number of notes, preferably in crisp, new bills.
Set an animal free during Tet celebrations
Aside from revamping your house, the Vietnamese believe that during Tet, you should set an animal free. At the local temples, birds are sold solely for this purpose. But it might be a great idea to go to ARC instead and adopt a cute kitten or dog. They’ll probably prefer your welcoming home to total freedom.
Where to buy your Ao Dai
Also important during Tet celebrations; wear red. Or at least, avoid black and white, as they are associated with bad luck during Tet. Wearing the beautiful Vietnamese traditional dress, the Ao Dai, is not necessary but often much appreciated. There are Ao Dai’s for kids as well as adults. You can buy them at Ninh Khuong, which has a store at 34 Le Loi and at the Vincom Mega mall in district 2. Next to Meatworks in district 2 is a small shop which also sells ao dai’s and of course you can find them at the Ben Thanh market.
So, there you go, you are all set for Tet. One last tip; make sure the first person you receive in your home in the new year is a nice person, because the Vietnamese believe that the karma of your first visitor will become your own. Chuc mung nam moi!