ALL ABOUT TẾT - VIETNAMESE LUNAR NEW YEAR
Lunar New Year – known as the most important celebration in Asian culture – is a special occasion for pilgrims and family reunions as well as for celebrating the arrival of springs. In Vietnamese culture, we call Lunar New Year as ‘ Tet Nguyen Dan ’ or ‘ Tết ’, which is translated as “ Feast of the First Morning of the First Day ”. The word ‘ Nguyen ’ represents a new beginning and ‘ Dan ’ means new dawn.
In Vietnam, Tet is normally divided into three periods:
Tất Niên – Before New Year’s Eve
Giao Thừa – New Year’s Eve
Tân Niên – the New Year
1- Tất Niên (Before New Year’s Eve)
Tat Nien meal – The last meal of the year is also the most important one when every member of a family unites no matter how busy they are.
This period begins one or two weeks before the actual celebration. The general atmosphere leading up to Tet is in the bustle of shopping, decorating the home, cooking traditional Tet food and waiting for relatives to return home. The dishes and foods that are usually prepared include bánh chưng, bánh dày; hạt dưa (roasted watermelon seeds); mứt (dried candied fruits); mâm ngũ quá (five fruits type); canh măng (dried young bamboo soup), giò chả (spring roll) and xôi (sticky rice).
Vietnamese families usually have a family altar, to pay respect to their ancestors. During Tet the altar is thoroughly cleaned and new offerings are placed there. Traditionally, the three kitchen guardians for each house ( Ông Táo ) (Kitchen God) return to heaven on the 23rd day of the twelfth month by the lunar calendar to give his annual report on family members to the Jade Emperor. Their departure is marked by a modest ceremony where the family offers sacrifices for them to use on their journey.
Fireworks is displayed at the eve of Vietnam’s biggest and most important holiday.
On the New Year’s Eve, Vietnamese people have a spectacular celebration which involves the whole nation—some may gather around the TV and watch the Tao Quan show, some may go out for fireworks observation. When the bell of the twelfth-hour rings, everybody gathers, at exciting parties or at the comfort of their homes, saying Happy New Year to one another in warm hugs, forgetting all problems as well as hoping for a better start.
Some of the common wishes for Tết are: “Cung Chúc Tân Xuân” (gracious wishes of the new spring), “Vạn Sự Như Ý” (may myriad things go according to your will), “An Khang Thịnh Vượng” (security, good health and prosperity), “Phát Tài Phát Lộc” (wisdom and prosperity), “Đại Cát Đại Lợi” (great luck and prosperity).
3 - Tân Niên (The New Year)
Mut (candied fruits) is served as a snack to welcome guests visiting house and always kept in beautiful boxes and placed at the table in the living room.
During this period, there are many traditional customs that are only practised during this special occasion such as ancestor worship, visiting a person’s house on the first day of the new year (xông nhà), New Year’s greetings, giving lucky money to children and elderly people…
The first day of Tet is reserved for the nuclear family. Children wear their new clothes, give their elders the traditional Tet greetings before receiving the lucky money from them in exchange.
Since the Vietnamese believe that the very first visitor a family receives in the year determines their fortune for the entire year, a person of good temper, morality and success will be the lucky sign for the host family and be invited first into the house. This special activity is called xông đất or xông nhà , which is one of the most important rituals during Tet. According to Vietnamese tradition, if good things come to the family on the first day of the lunar New Year, the entire following year will also be full of blessings.
During subsequent days, people visit relatives and friends. Traditionally but not strictly, the second day of Tet is usually reserved for friends, while the third day is for teachers, who command respect in Vietnam. Local Buddhist temples are popular spots as people like to give donations and to get their fortunes told during Tet.
Above all, time to Tet is counting down, so if you want to experience this extremely special event at least once in a life, just pack up your luggage and reserve a Lunar New Year trip in Vietnam!
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