Celebrating Vietnamese Lunar New Year - A Festive Journey!
In the lead-up to Tet, there is a lot of frantic activity in Vietnam, with everyone preparing to welcome in the New Year. The streets are filled with colorful decorations such as flowers like peach blossom, kumquat, marigold, and traditional symbols like red and gold couplets wishing good fortune. Families busy themselves with shopping for festive treats and new clothes, cleaning their homes, cooking traditional foods for the Tet banquet, and paying respects to ancestors. As visitors to Vietnam, you can get involved in the preparation too, by shopping for trinkets and food at traditional markets, learning how to cook local dishes, and joining in with families as they prepare their homes, shops, and stalls for the big day.
The Tet Banquet:
Food plays a big role in the New Year celebrations, and the Tet Banquet, also known as ‘Mâm Ngũ Quả’, is a feast for the senses. The table is filled with traditional foods such as Banh Chung (sticky rice with meat and bean filling), Nem Ran (fried spring rolls), and Xôi Gấc (sticky rice with gac fruit). The dishes have symbolic meanings, for example, Banh Chung represents the Earth, Nem Ran represents happiness, and Xôi Gấc represents good fortune. Families gather together, share stories, play games, and toast to a prosperous New Year.
One activity that is synonymous with the Vietnamese Lunar New Year is giving ‘Li Xi’. Li Xi is a little red envelope containing money that is offered as a gift to children, unmarried adults, or people you’re close with. The red envelope is traditionally believed to bring luck and fortune for the receiver. During Tet, it’s not uncommon to see children excitedly running around with stacks of red envelopes and to hear the merriment in the air. Visitors to Vietnam can get involved in this tradition by offering Li Xi to friends and family, or by accepting it with gratitude.
Tet is a time for celebration and entertainment, and the streets of Vietnam come alive with dragon dances, music, and games. Dragon dances symbolize prosperity and are performed by dancers in bright and glittering costumes. Visitors can watch these performances in public spaces or even hire performers to dance in their homes. It’s also common for Tet fairs to be set up, where visitors can play games like folding sticky notes with one hand, aiming darts at balloons, or eating coconut candies with chopsticks.
To round off the New Year celebrations in Vietnam, it’s customary for families to visit temples, burn incense, and make wishes for the upcoming year. One of the most popular temples to visit during Tet is Thuong Temple (Perfume Pagoda) in Hanoi, where an annual festival is held. People believe that visiting temples during Tet can bring blessings, good luck, and fortune. Visitors can join in the temple visits and enjoy the tradition, respect, and serenity of this ancient custom.
The Vietnamese Lunar New Year is a time filled with love, family, and tradition. the busy preparations to the colorful decorations, delicious food, and entertaining activities, it’s an experience that can’t be missed. Visitors to Vietnam can join the locals in celebrating the spirit of Tet by joining in with the preparations, enjoying the Tet Banquet, giving gifts, enjoying entertainment, and visiting temples. It’s a festive journey that will create memories that last a lifetime. So join in and say, “Chúc Mừng Năm Mới,” or Happy New Year, the Vietnamese way!