Lunar New Year Festival - the occasion that marks the beginning of a new year in lunar calendar, is also called "Tet" or "Tet Nguyen Dan" in Vietnamese. This is the most important festival in Vietnam which usually takes place annually around late January or early February.
Lunar New Year Festival in Vietnam has many similar features with Lunar New Year Festival in other Oriental countries in the regions, especially with Chinese one. However, Vietnamese Lunar New Year Festival and Chinese one may not happen at the same time as difference in lunar calendars of two countries.
For about one or even two weeks before, Vietnamese people has prepared for the New Year because they think that by the time a new year comes, everything must be new to welcome luck and get rid of bad thing. They spend time to clean their house, particularly ancestral altar, and decorate the house with new things which are usually in red (the color symbolizing the luck). Housewives are always busy with preparing food for “Tet” holiday and buying accessories for traditional rites. All members of family also get new clothes and of course, kids are always excited most by their new clothes. Particularly, all debts must be paid back because paying debt in the New Year will bring bad fortune in all around the year.
On 23rd of the last lunar month in the year, the householder will practice a farewell ceremony for the Kitchen Gods (called “Ong Tao” in Vietnamese). A carp will be used as a sacrifice which will pick up “Ong Tao” to Heaven Palace. On that day, “Ong Tao” will present his report of family’s businesses in previous year to the Jade Emperor. As the absence of “Ong Tao” in the house, Vietnamese usually plant “cay neu” (Lunar New Year pole) in front of their houses to prevent devils from harassing.
Besides, all members in family will visits and clean their ancestor’s graves together. They also incense and invite ancestor to come back home and enjoy Tet holiday with family. By doing this, Vietnamese people express respect to their ancestor and tighten links between family’s members.
Before New Year’s Eve, a five-fruit tray will be put on ancestral altar, offered to the gods and ancestor as well as express wishes of the whole family about a new year with luck, health and prosperity. Moreover, a branch of flowering peach tree (or apricot flowers instead) and a couple of “chung” cakes are also indispensible.
New Year’s Eve
By the time a new year comes, a lavish tray (including chicken, sticky rice, salt, rice, etc.) is set up in front of the house. The householder will practice traditional rite of giving thanks to the genies and ancestor as well as praying for a prosperous, lucky and healthy year. In New Year’s Eve, firework is also fired in Vietnam to welcome New Year and people gather to admire firework display together.
Then, people will visit pagodas or temples with their family. In Vietnamese people’s point of view, the very first moment of a new year is a solemn and holy moment that every wish will come true. Thus, they spend time giving the others best wishes as well as wishing for their own dream. On the way coming back home, each people will pick a bud of a tree and bring it home (“hai loc”). Vietnamese thinks that it’s the symbol of fortune and when you bring it home, it means you bring fortune to your family.
New Year’s Eve is also the great time of beginning. Vietnamese students usually study in New Year’s Eve as a wish for good result of their learning. In Vietnam, it has become an interesting custom with Vietnamese name “khai but dau xuan”.
One of the most important customs in New Year’s Eve is “xong dat” (bursting into the land). A chosen person will come to the house and give best wishes to the householder as well as his family. That chosen one takes crucial role in bringing fortune to family in New Year.
New Year’s Days
On New Year’s Days, Vietnamese people usually gather with family or visit relatives and friends. The first day of New Year is the day of family. All members of family will gather and dine together. Wishes is given to everyone by the others; the old and kids will receive red envelops which are filled with lucky money as a wish for health in a new year. On the second day, Vietnamese people will visit their teachers with some gifts to express their gratitude and wishes to their teachers. The remaining days of Tet holiday in Vietnam is for relatives and friends. This is also good occasion for New Year party or excursions.
Significantly, Vietnamese has many taboos on New Year’s Days in order to keep luck in the house as well as avoid bad things. Typically, Vietnamese people don’t clean the house during first three day of New Year; avoid of being angry, arguing, breaking dishes, etc.