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Vietnam Tet Holiday (Part 4): The Dos and The Don’ts

23 Jan, 2020 | Travel Blog

As the world has just celebrated the beginning of a new decade, Vietnamese people are busy planning for their Tet holidays -  the most important and popular holiday in Vietnam (taking place on January 20th). If you’re visiting Vietnam during this occasion, you will have the chance to celebrate not one, but two New Years in a singular year. So get ready to enjoy Tet like a true local, with our helpful list of dos and don’ts guaranteed to give you comprehensive information about this significant festival.

The DOs

1. Give people good wishes

Say “Chuc mung nam moi!” (Chook Mwoong Num Moy) and wish people all the best for a happy new year. Taking place annually, Tet is the most expected time of the year when people unite with their loved ones and finally have time to relax and enjoy the holiday atmosphere after the whole year of hard work. On this special occasion, family members usually gather around, enjoy cozy meals, talk about what they have achieved the last year and give their New Year's wishes to one another. However, during your stay in Vietnam, there are people who still work during Tet holidays. Thus, make sure to say thanks and wish them a happy new year for their dedication.

2. Lucky money!

Alongside the good wishes is the lucky money, as known as “Lee-see”. Commonly, this custom is about giving money in the red envelopes to the young and the old of the family.  As a belief in karma and the philosophy of “give and take”, Vietnamese assume giving away money to children and elders in the New Year's Eve will help them prosper and thrive financially. 

Nonetheless, to foreign travelers, what possibly can this information do? The answer is quite simple. If you travel with kids, you can “lee-see” them with a small amount of money. Else, say “lee-see” with a smile on your face while tipping, surely the locals will understand and feel delighted.

You can also “lee-see” other people with any currency. Lucky money doesn’t have to be Vietnam dong and doesn’t necessarily have to be given in red envelopes.

3. Buy tiny salt bags
“Buying salt at the beginning of the year, buying quicklime at the end of the year”, this proverb indicates the common practices of the Vietnamese people during Tet holiday. It means by the end of each year, the locals will buy quicklime and have their house whitewashed to block all the negative energies. Likewise, buying tiny salt bags on the first day of the year will bring you good fortune as salt is believed to be a symbol of strong and intimate relationships. Vietnamese people buy salt with a wish for an upcoming year filled with loves, companionships and family bonds.
Note: The price of a tiny salt bag should be around 20,000 VND (0.85 USD).

4. Dressing bright-colored clothes
During Tet, everyone prefers wearing wearing brand new clothes during Tet holiday to mark a fresh beginning to the year. From trendy fashionable clothes to the “old but gold” traditional pieces such as ao dai. All of the outfits are usually very eye-catching and colorful.

Originally, dressing bright-colored clothes, especially red and yellow are believed to bring the owner new happy changes, as well as fortune and prosperity.

5. Tet’s signature dishes
It can’t be Tet without the traditional Tet food. These traditional dishes is the soul of the holiday. A full big tray of a typical Tet meal includes 5 to 6 hearty dishes with plates and bowls. Each dish is distinct from the others, yet they are not contrasting but elevate and complement one another. Usually, there are at least 7 popular Tet food. However, in case you can’t try them all, Chung Cake is the most iconic dish that you should savor. And for the food lovers, you can sign up a cooking class for an in-depth guide on how to make a completely traditional Vietnamese’s Tet meal.

6.Collecting Letters
During Tet holidays, calligraphy festivals - the festivities that imbued with national identity, take place mostly in Hanoi and Saigon. Here, scholars are called “ong do”. They set up shops and booths, writing auspicious Han Nom (Ancient Vietnamese language) letters and sell them as blessings. Adventurous travelers can head to the ground of The Temple of Literature in old Hanoi or the Youth Cultural House in Saigon to see this artistry and maybe have a letter for their own.


The DON’Ts
1. Conflicts.
The first few days of the Lunar New Year are very important. People believe that whatever happens on these days will likely to recur throughout the year. As such, Vietnamese people always try to retain harmony and spread positive energy towards others. There is no room for conflicts, arguments and especially hatred. Instead, it’s the perfect time of the year for people to set aside their contempt to forgive and cherish.

2. Be careful. Break means bad
Sometimes we’re clumsy, we break things unintentionally. Nevertheless, during Tet, breaking objects in the house means breakups, disruptions and bad luck. Hence, pay some extra attention when it comes to fragile items because it can potentially bring negative energy to you and the landlord.

3. Cursing is a NO
Oh cra.. Wait, are you about to curse? According to Vietnanese culture, what you say during Tet will less or more, influence you throughout the year. A little bit of Law of Attraction isn’t it? But it’s actually very logical. As we know, Vietnamese people always avoid negative energy on Tet. The truth is, everyone is so happy and delighted on this day that they even forget about their cursing habit. Still, if you accidentally get into a bad situation, try to stay positive and work things out instead of cursing and lose your temper.

4. What an unlucky banana!
As delicious as they are, some foods are abstained on special occasions due to some specific characteristics, namely bananas (slippery), squids (their ink symbolizes dirt and bad luck), shrimp (move backward), etc. In addition, leftovers are also very avoided during the Tet holidays. 

5. Showering on Tet
To many countries in Asia, the head is seen as the holiest part of the human body. In Vietnam, people avoid taking shower or washing their heads on Tet to retain knowledge and blessings from the previous year. Actually, they would shower carefully in the previous evening to keep themselves fresh throughout the first day of the year.

People say: “When in Romes, Do as the Romans do!”, and if you are visiting Vietnam on this year’s Tet, we hope that this post would help. Above all, we also hope that you’ll have a joyous and unforgettable trip with your loved ones, and by the way: “Chuc mung nam moi!”.


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