By Hang Do

The unique traditions of Vietnamese new year are always interesting to foreigners. Tết Nguyên Đán or Tet is the most important holiday and festival in Vietnam. It is the Vietnamese New Year marking the arrival of spring based on the Lunar calendar. Tet is for family reunion because Vietnamese people usually return to their families for Tet, to celebrate with their parents and relatives. 

How do Vietnamese people celebrate Tết? Tet is divided into three periods, known as Tất Niên (Before New Year’s Eve), Giao Thừa (New Year’s Eve), and Tân Niên (the New Year), representing the preparation before Tet, the eve of Tet, and the days of and following Tet.

The unique traditions of Vietnamese New Year

Tết is family reunion – Image source: internet

Before the New Year's Eve

This period begins about one or two weeks before the actual celebration. In the days leading up to Tet, the streets and markets are full of people. People are busy shopping, decorating the home, cooking traditional Tet food and waiting for loved ones to return home. Parents buy new clothes for their children. 

The unique traditions of Vietnamese New Year
The unique traditions of Vietnamese New Year

Special food for Tet includes bánh chưng (Chung cake, made from sticky rice, bean and pork), xôi (sticky rice), nem rán (fried spring rolls), chicken meat, etc. Mứt (candied fruits) is a very popular traditional food which is not served in meals but a snack to welcome guests visiting house in the new year. Mứt boxes are also used as gifts to give to relatives, friends, etc.

The unique traditions of Vietnamese New Year
The unique traditions of Vietnamese New Year

Tet food and Candied fruits

Home decoration is also one of the most essential parts of preparation for Tet. People always buy many beautiful things to decorate the house with the belief that there is only one Tet in a year. Vietnamese families buy peach blossom, kumquat, and orange trees to decorate at home. Popular flowers are chrysanthemums, orchids, etc. Those fruits and flowers symbolize the fertility and fruitfulness that the family hopes for in the coming year. 

The year-end meal with the whole extended family is a tradition of Vietnam. All extended-families members are expected to be present, except if the members have their own families and live far away. During the meal, members share what they have done during the year, and plans for the future. 

The unique traditions of Vietnamese New Year
Tet decoration BiziVietnam

Vietnamese Tết is very colorful – Image source: internet

The New Year's Eve

Every Vietnamese family has altars to worship ancestors. The worshipping of ancestors on New Year’s Eve has a special meaning. It is to report to ancestors the family’s merits during the year. Only after that, family members will enjoy the meal blessed by their ancestors. Vietnamese people pay special attention to ancestor worshiping and always educate their children on this tradition.

Many families go to temples or pagodas on New Year’s Eve. There are live music performances and fireworks. The whole family will stay awake together and wait until the moment turning to the new year and say new year wishes to one another. Children will get “lucky money” from parents and grandparents as goodluck wishes and motivations to be better in the new year.  

Ancestor altar decoration on Tết Holiday

Ancestor altar decoration on Tết Holiday – Image source: internet

The New Year's Days

Like many other Asian countries, Vietnamese believe that the color of red and yellow will bring good fortune, which may explain why these colors can be seen everywhere in Lunar New Year. People consider what they do or happen to them on the dawn of Tet will determine their fate for the whole year, hence people always smile and behave at their best in the hope for a year full of blessings.

In Vietnamese customs, the first day of Tet is for families. The second day of Tet is for visiting friends, and the third day is for visiting teachers. Part of the tradition, people visit temples and pagodas, to pray for all the challenges of the past year to end and to hope for a better year to come. 

The unique traditions of Vietnamese New Year

Red and yellow colors are believed to bring good forture  – Image source: internet

Some common customs practiced during Tet

  • Xông đất or xông nhà, is one of the most important rituals during Tet. The first visitor a family receives on the first day of the new 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. 
  • Wishing New Year’s greetings 
  • Giving lucky money to children and elderly people. 
  • Sweeping during Tet is a taboo since it symbolizes sweeping the luck away. 
  • It is also a taboo for anyone who experiences a recent loss of a family member to visit anyone else during Tết.
The unique traditions of Vietnamese New Year

Sweeping the house on the first new year day is avoided – Image source: internet 

Common New Year's Wishes

The unique traditions of Vietnamese New Year

We hope you have learn a few unique traditions of Vietnamese new year from this blog. You may also learn from  Vietnamese friends that  they celebrate a bit differently or the prepared food is different. It is because although Tet is a national holiday among all Vietnamese, each region and religion has its own customs. However, we all celebrate New Year with a belief to start a New Year with full of blessings, success, prosperity, happiness and good health. 

If you are interested in learning more about Vietnam

BiziVietnam wishes to introduce to local and international friends in Finland the unique culture of Vietnam through our programmes such as Vietnamese Language Courses for Adults and Children, Vietnamese Cooking Classes in Helsinki, Hobby Clubs, and upcoming exciting public events and membership programmes.

About BiziVietnam
BiziVietnam is the first ever non-profit organisation in Finland dedicated to empowering cultural connections and strengthening the Vietnamese cultural footprint in locals, internationals and Vietnamese people in Finland; along with promoting cooperation opportunities between Finland and Vietnam. Follow us on Social Media for the latest news and upcoming events.