Lunar New Year in Viet Nam (also known Vietnamese New Year, Tet Holiday or Tet) is the most important holiday of a year of Vietnamese people. Tet Holiday lasts from the 1st to the 3rd of January of the lunar calendar, from the New Year Eve Ceremony to the Ceremony of Finishing Tet.
Tet begins for a new year, which is the time that people dream of a good future. Tết is an occasion that Vietnamese people express their gratitude to their ancestors and benefactors and is also an occasion that the families reunite. This is also an opportunity that people relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery of spring, traditional dishes, tradition festivals, folk games and so on.
New Year Eve Welcoming Ceremony marks Tet Holiday beginning. The ceremony happens at 12 pm on December 30th (a full month) or 29th (a missing month) of the lunar calendar. The New Year Eve time point is the one contiguous between the old year and the new year. According to the folk belief of the East Asian people, every year there is a god responsible for managing the human world’s affairs. At New Year Eve time point, the old god handed over the responsibility to the new god. On this occasion, people carry out New Year’s Eve Welcoming Ceremony to see off the old god and welcome the old god.
During 3 Tet days, any house is also clean and beautiful, full of food, especially, food typical at Tet Holiday such as square glutinous rice cakes (in North Vietnam) or cylindric glutinous rice cakes (in South Vietnam), watermelons, paper cakes, jam, candy, and is decorated with peach blossom (in North Vietnam) or apricot blossom (in South Vietnam), kumquat trees, marigolds.
On the ancestor altar of each family, there is always a five-fruit tray, a vase of fresh flowers and warm incense smoke. People offer the ancestor 3 times a day like when the ancestor is alive. The children, though being far from home, come back to enjoy Tet with their family. Each member plans for herself or himself, each day has a job. The folk has the sentence, “The first day is for father’s side, the second day is for mother’s side, the third day is for teachers.”
On the first day, early in the morning, children and grandchildren wish Tet to parents and grandparents at home, and they get to receive lucky money envelopes from their parents and grandparents. After that, people usually go to pagodas, churches or village temples, then come big old trees in the pagoda or the village temple to pick a bud (Vietnamese: Hái Lộc) to bring back to hang in front the house or put on the altar, then go to visit the relatives of the father’s side. On the second day, people usually go to visit the relatives of the mother’s side. On the third day, people usually go to visit teachers and friends. Thanks to visiting each other, kinship, teacher-student love and friendship get to strengthen.
During these days, there is always the least one person staying at home to be ready to welcome visitors. According to Vietnamese customs, the first person visiting a house (Vietnamese: người Xông Đất) results in goodness or badness of the family during the year. The person having a good name such as Blessing, Fortune, Longevity (Vietnamese: Phước, Lộc, Thọ) brings goodness to the family. Besides the name, the first person arriving at the house has to have good characteristics such as happiness, openness, kindness. whether indoors or out, when communicating with each other, people always use polite words because they also believe that polite or rude words result in the goodness or badness of families.
During these days, In the centers of districts, provinces or cities, there are always spring festivals where there are many games organized. Besides, there are spring flower festivals where flowers and ornamental trees are displayed. Especially, in large cities like Hanoi, Hai Phong, Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh, Can Tho, the spring flower festivals have mini-scene, great-scene very beautiful and meaningful.
To mark the end of the Tet Holiday and to see off the ancestors and the souls of the relatives to the invisible world, on January 3rd or 4th of the lunar calendar, families organize the Ceremony of Finishing Tet (Vietnamese: Lễ Cúng Tất). The ceremony shows the offspring’s gratitude and respect is for the ancestors. Although Tet happens for 3 days, before and after Tet, there are many ceremonies and festivals. all create a joyful atmosphere that helps everybody to enter a new year full of faith and hope.