A First-Timer's Guide to Tet
This quick guide to Tet in Hoi An is for for those who haven’t been before. In 2019 the observed days are Saturday 2 February to Sunday 10 February and Tet itself is Tuesday 5 February. But before jumping into the tips and advice let’s set the scene a little.
You’re very lucky if you are in Hoi An for Vietnamese New Year – also called Tet, short for Tết Nguyên Đán. There are even more decorations and lanterns illuminating the Old Town than usual and that’s saying something. On top of this, ten days out from Tet you can already see uncountable flower pots and Kumquat trees lining the main streets in town, waiting to be bought by families to decorate their entrances for good luck. It’s an unreal floral wonderland that would melt the hardest of hearts.
Take a stroll through these pretty streets, soak up this special atmosphere, taste the abundance of Street Food, and be ready with a reply if someone wishes you chúc mừng năm mới or cung chúc tân xuân (Happy New Year).
Besides the lanterns hanging above the streets and floating on the river, you will encounter many casual spontaneous street parties. You might well find yourself invited to enjoy some beers with strangers. Accept and enjoy.
Watch out for the birds. You may encounter birds being freed from cages – one of the many traditions in search of future good luck.
While New Year is celebrated mostly with family at home, on An Hoi Island in Old Town it will get more of a Western style New Year’s Eve Celebration on the street, with music and fireworks.
Plan ahead and stay safe
Make sure you have enough cash in your wallet. Due to the flood of tourists streaming into Hoi An for Tet, many ATMs might actually run out of notes and will not be stocked up until the holidays are over. If you don’t want to spend this special time at home – find an ATM now!
Be street-wise. This applies for the entire duration of your stay but mainly during Tet, with the streets full of (sometimes) naive or drunk foreigners, some local sleaze may take the opportunity to make some extra cash (as is common around Festivals world-wide). Only take with you what’s necessary and leave all other valuables at home. Keep your purse on you and don’t leave it in your front bicycle basket.
- Don’t wear white, as it’s associated with death and funerals.
- Don’t break anything! Breaking glasses or ceramics is thought to bring bad luck.
- Don’t ask for fire or water: Fire and water are the two important components in the spiritual life of the locals. So do not ask for any of these during Tet because no one would want to give you all their luck.
- Don’t mention bad things or start any arguments. Not only will it affect others’ holiday mood, but arguing is believed to bring bad luck to all the people involved.
- Don’t comb your hair in someone else’s home, as it will transfer your bad luck to the home owner.
- Don’t enter a person’s house uninvited during Tet
- Don’t reject any gifts or wishes that are offered to you during the holidays.
Tet Food Delicacies
And as is common for most of the bigger holidays, there are special delicacies at Tet. To find out what they are, where they come from and where you find them click here.
Updated January, 2019