Hoi An is the perfect place to experience Tet. It’s lantern-lined streets, heritage architecture and quaint personality provide the perfect backdrop for a festival. While many businesses will be closed, Hoi An will still be a-buzz with activity and a Tet experience is always interesting and fun for visitors.
Tet this year officially starts on February 16 (but many start earlier) and runs at least for 3 days, with most Vietnamese taking a full week off from their work. Typically, Vietnamese people prepare for Tet by cooking special foods and by cleaning the house and then decorating it. There are a lot of customs practiced during Tet, such as visiting a person’s house on the first day of the new year, ancestral worship, wishing New Year’s greetings, giving lucky money to children and elderly people, and opening a shop.
Delicacies such as banh chung and banh day are commonly prepared in advance; the former consisting of sticky rice-filled meat and wrapped in banana leaf, the latter being a rice cake which sandwiches a pork and mung bean filling.
The first day of Tet is reserved for immediate family. Children receive red envelopes with money inside from their elders. Also, the first person to enter the house will determine the fortune for that year, so never enter a person’s house on this day without being invited. Just to be safe, the owner of the house will usually leave the house before midnight and return a few minutes later. After the first day of the new year, the subsequent days are filled with visitations from friends and relatives.
Some Tet facts and pointers:
- Traditional greetings are “chúc mừng năm mới” and “cung chúc tân xuân”
- Flowers such as marigold and peach flowers are used to decorate houses. A kumquat tree is also popular, indicating fertility and fruitfulness of the family
- Don’t enter a house on the first day of new year without permission, it’s a big taboo
- This is the year of the Dog (one of the 12 animals in the Chinese horoscope, a horoscope that is shared with the Vietnamese with the exception of the Rabbit which in Vietnam has been replaced by a Cat and the Ox that in Vietnam is the Water Buffalo)
- A person should clean the house before the new year but not sweep or clear rubbish on new year day as they may lose good luck in the house
- Don’t wear white; it is associated with funerals and indicates bad luck
- Accept all the wishes and gifts that others offer you during Tet