Tet Holiday, or the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, is the most important festival in Vietnam. It is also known as the ‘Spring Festival’ and is the longest public holiday in Vietnam. Therefore, it’s a joyous time of celebration for local families and foreign tourists who are spending their vacation in Vietnam during this time.
What is Tet Festival?
Tet is short for Tết Nguyên Đán, or in translation, the “First Day of the Year”. In Vietnamese culture, this festival marks the start of a renewed year and a moment for reflection on changes and progress. If you are in Hoi An for Tet, you are in for a treat. There are more colourful decorations lighting up the Old Town and the streets will be buzzing with parties; even fireworks are set off at midnight. You’ll also see flower pots and kumquat trees lining the streets waiting to be bought as a token of good luck for families.
Tet is celebrated to welcome a new year on the Lunar calendar. Like Chinese horoscopes, the Vietnamese horoscope also recognizes the 12 animals (with the exception of the Rabbit which is replaced by a Cat and the Ox that is replaced with the Water Buffalo). While Tet takes place at the same time as the Chinese Lunar New Year, the Vietnamese experience features different customs and traditions. Historically, Vietnamese people often painted themselves, drank traditional rice wine and ate Chung cake (a Vietnamese sticky rice cake). The last two of these three are still common.
When is Tet Festival?
Tet is mostly held at the end of January and beginning of February, but the exact dates change every year.
How do People Celebrate?
It is traditionally significant to prepare special food, clean, decorate the house and spend time with family and friends. Generally, the first day of Tet is specifically for immediate family. Customs include visiting a person’s house on the first day of the new year, ancestral worship, giving money to children or the elderly and even opening a shop.
Whatever you do, make sure you don’t enter someone’s home on the first day of the new year without permission as there is superstition around this. And make sure you remember these greetings if you find yourself in Hoi An during Lunar New Year: “chúc mừng năm mới” and “cung chúc tân xuân” – both of which loosely translate to “happy new year!”.
Food at Tet Festival
The cuisine and food that is shared over Tet plays an important role for the Lunar New Year in Vietnam. The traditional dishes include:
- Chung Cake (Banh Chung): made out of sticky rice, green beans and pork, wrapped in green leaves and boiled overnight
- Banh Day/Giay: steamed rice cakes with a pork and mung bean filling
- Jam: a typical snack to welcome guests, the jam made for Tet has dried fruits such as carrots or apples and some kind of seeds like watermelon seeds mixed with sugar
- Pickled onions: a dish to balance the fatty and oily foods consumed during Tet