As the world has just celebrated the new year, Vietnamese people are busy planning for their own new year, the Tet holiday - the most important and popular holiday in Vietnam. If you’re taking a Vietnam trip 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.
Read more articles to find out how Tet is celebrated in Vietnam with Exotic Voyages through our series of posts about the Vietnam Tet Holiday.
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 a 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 the Tet holidays. Thus, make sure to say thanks and wish them a happy new year for their dedication.
Alongside the good wishes is the lucky money, as known as Li xi (pronounced Lee-see). Commonly, this custom is about giving money in red envelopes to the young and the old of the family as a practice of the philosophy of “give and take”.
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 “Happy New Year” with a smile on your face, 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.
During Tet, Vietnamese people often buy new clothes 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 in bright-colored clothes, especially red and yellow is believed to bring the owner new happy changes, as well as fortune and prosperity.
It can’t be Tet without the traditional Tet food. These traditional dishes are the soul of the holiday. A full big tray of a typical Tet meal includes 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 is at least 7 popular Tet food that every girl is taught by their mothers and grandmothers since they are young.
During Tet holidays, calligraphy festivals - the festivities that are imbued with national identity, take place mostly in Hanoi and Saigon. Here, scholars are called “Ong Do”, dressed in traditional clothes. They decorate their booths, write auspicious Han Nom (Ancient Vietnamese language) letters and give them as blessings. There is no fixed price for these letters. Ask Ong Do what you want for the new year, they will help to choose the right words. Pay whatever you feel is right for their work.
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 of your own.
“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 the Tet holiday. It means by the end of each year, the locals will buy quicklime and have their houses 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 love, companionship, and family bonds.
The first three days of the Lunar New Year are very important. People believe that whatever happens on these days will likely recur throughout the year. As such, Vietnamese people always try to retain harmony and spread positive energy toward 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.
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 they can potentially bring negative energy to you and the landlord.
"Oh, car..." Wait, are you about to curse? According to Vietnamese culture, what you say during Tet will less or more, influence you throughout the year. A little bit of the Law of Attraction isn’t it? But it’s actually very logical.
Vietnamese people always avoid negative energy on Tet. The truth is, everyone is so happy and delighted on this day that they even forgive for things that often drive them crazy on normal days. Still, if you accidentally get into a bad situation, try to stay positive and work things out instead of cursing and losing your temper.
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.
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 the previous evening to keep themselves fresh throughout the first day of the year.
Vietnamese people believe that house gods hide in their houses so if you sweep your house during the Tet holiday, you will sweep away the gods. That also means you sweep away the lucks of the new year.
Believe it or not, but as a saying: “When in Rome, Do as the Romans do!”, and all those things are no harm. If you have a chance to visit Vietnam during Tet, we hope that our posts are helpful. 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!”.