Tết Nguyên Đán, or Tết for short, is the biggest festival of the year in Vietnam. Celebrated on the first day of the first month in the Lunar Calendar, the Tết celebrations are the longest in the country, lasting up to seven days!
It is when the Vietnamese show their respect for and remembrance of their ancestors as well as welcoming in the New Year with their family and friends. It is a time when families gather for feasts and to decorate their homes with flowers.
The Vietnamese will typically begin their preparations well in advance of the New Year. To banish the bad luck of the past year, people will clean their homes from top to bottom, and decorate it with kumquat trees, peach blossom. Special attention is paid to the ancestral altar, with offerings of fruit and votive papers. New clothes will be bought, debts will be paid and arguments resolved!
It is believed that what you do on the dawn of Tết will determine your fate for the whole year, hence people always smile and behave as well as they can in the hope of a good year to come. Gifts are exchanged between family and friends, while children receive ‘lucky money’ in red envelopes.
The diet of the people of Vietnam changes during Tết, with more elaborate dishes than normal, the most typical of which are:
Bánh Chưng, a square steamed cake, is made from glutinous rice, mung beans and pork, and is wrapped in banana leaves for cooking and preserving.
Giò and Chả, a Vietnamese ham/sausage, is usually served with Xôi (sticky rice) and Bánh Chưng. Giò is made from lean meat and fish sauce, covered with leaves and boiled, whereas Chả is deep-fried instead.
Thịt Gà, is a boiled or steamed chicken, and as all feasts remembering ancestors must contain chicken, this dish plays an important part in Tết holiday cuisine. The meat is traditionally served with sliced lemon leaves, a salt-and-pepper sauce and accompanied by Xôi and Bánh Chưng.
Mứt Tết is a snack offered to guests during the holiday period. Kept in beautiful boxes and placed on the living room table, it is the main sweet treat consisting of seeds, nuts and candied fruits.
In a similar way to the Western custom of decorating a Christmas tree, the Vietnamese decorate their homes during Tết with bright and fragrant flowers. The three main plants are the delicate pink Peach Blossom, golden yellow Ochna Integerrima and the main symbol for wealth and happiness, the Marumi Kumquat.
Tết is a time for family celebration and the Vietnamese have many sayings to wish their nearest and dearest well. Here are six of the most popular ones:
1 – Năm mới dồi dào sức khỏe: I wish you a healthy New Year
2 – Năm mới tấn tài tấn lộc: I wish you a wealthy New Year
3 – Năm mới toàn gia bình an: I wish that the New Year will bring health to all your family
4 – Vạn sự như ý: All wishes come true
5 – Chúc hay ăn chóng lớn: Eat more, grow rapidly (for children)
6 – Chúc mau chóng tìm được người yêu: New lover will come in the New Year (for single people)
Finally, Vạn sự như ý from everyone here at Vietnam Links Travel!