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TET Festival in Vietnam

Updated on January 10, 2016
Cherry Blossoms for TET
Cherry Blossoms for TET | Source

TET Nguyen Dan: Lunar New Year in Vietnam

TET in Vietnam. What a good thing it is to have multiple New Years. Some countries are just lucky. January 1 maybe a holiday but in Vietnam, the real ramping up for serious partying begins much later in January for the biggest event of the year. TET or Tet Nguyen Dan.

This great new year celebration has survived wars and economic horror stories and bad memories of parts of the western world and remains the one big annual blow out for all of Vietnam. It's thanksgiving and Christmas and new year all rolled together and Vietnam seems to shut down for two weeks and take a break from what is normally an anthill of hard work.

This year, the year of the Monkey, the celebration will be from February 8 to the 13th. February 8,9 and 10 are the key days. Remember that most offices and banks would be closed.

The Story of the TET Festival

Introducing kids to festivals in other countries is a sure way to start them understanding other cultures. This book is a great story on Vietnam's New Year Festival, TET. It tells of the TET legend, something that will amuse and make the kids mind wonder about legends of other peoples.

Year of the Monkey

TET Festival
TET Festival | Source

TET Preparations

As with most celebrations, the start is in the stores where the party supplies go on show: lanterns, flowering peach blossoms, qumquat trees, TET gift baskets, new clothes, masks and ribbons are all floating in the streets looking for customers. TET present bundles are all wrapped up in see through paper boasting collections of pickles and cookies and wine and all the gifts that make sense in a food loving country. Companies have the usual parties where the usual people misbehave creating the basis for great stories for the rest of the year.

At home, Vietnamese clean the house thoroughly, get their Cherry blossoms and Qumquat tree to decorate their homes to assure that the new year brings prosperity. They also prepare their traditional Chung Cake.

TET Lucky Decorations

TET decorations
TET decorations | Source

Get your Fire Monkey Now

NEW Jade Chinese Feng Shui Dragon Figurine Statue for Luck & Success #S
NEW Jade Chinese Feng Shui Dragon Figurine Statue for Luck & Success #S

Here's an auspicious fire monkey you can place in your home for 2016. The fire monkey is biting a gold ingot so you're in for prosperity for the year. You will also delight many of your Vietnamese friends if you give this as a TET present.


TET Fire Monkey Lucky Decorations

Depending on which lucky animal is designated for the new year, decorations are tailored to this.

This 2016 TET is the year of the Fire Monkey so the streets and homes would be filled with Fire Monkey representations.

Other symbols are also considered lucky like everything in red from clothes to other things placed in the house.

Preparations for TET - Thorough Cleaning of the House

Cherry Blossoms for TET Festival
Cherry Blossoms for TET Festival | Source

Prepare your Chung Cake Now

Chung Cake Preparation
Chung Cake Preparation | Source

What to Do on TET

TET is the first day in the Vietnamese lunar calendar and this is a big celebration. Most of the rituals are centered around the family with the ancestors at the place of honor. The house is thoroughly cleaned even painted anew. New clothes are purchased and parties start to sprout.

Today, we went to the flower market with some Vietnamese friends and flowers have been purchased. Most important for the homes are the hoa mai tree filled with flowers and the qumquat tree loaded with fruits. In our hotel lobby, the hoa mai tree (local peach tree) filled with flowers and good luck money has already taken central place in the lobby.

For the Vietnamese, what you do on the first day of the lunar new year practically determines your year. So fill your day with goodness, kindness, joy, and abundance. Sadness and crying are discouraged. When in mourning, you are not welcome to visit families as you might bring cause for the family to mourn.

Know the superstitious beliefs around the TET celebration. The first person to enter the house determines the luck of the family for the year so don't just barge in unless you are invited. Try not to be the first one if you're not worthy.

The big No on TET is borrowing money. So, get ready early. If you need some money do it weeks before TET.

The Rituals of TET

TET Traditional Food
TET Traditional Food | Source

The TET Rituals

For many Vietnamese families, ancestor worship is at the centre of TET celebration. The most important thing for the family to prepare is the altar where offerings to the ancestors of 5 fruit trays are placed to show respect for the elders of the family. Vietnamese go home to their home province and clean the graves of ancestors. They also go to the temple and make their offering asking forgiveness for their past actions. Debts are also paid so they can start with a clean slate for the coming year.

TET is a 3 day celebration. On the first day, you visit the paternal side of the family and on the second day, the maternal side of the family. On the third day, you visit your teachers.

As is often the case, Food is at the center of the celebration. Families give gifts of food to each other and everyone eat plenty as the belief is that the more they eat, the stronger they are ensured that hunger will never plague the family. The traditional Chung cake made of sticky rice, mung bean and pork are prepared for this occasion. Other traditional dishes include bamboo and pork soup, orange sticky rice, several types of dried fruits and pickles as well as pomelo and other fruits. An abundance of food is necessary for the family's table during the celebration. This forecasts your prosperity for the year.

Kids are the happiest on TET. They get money inside the red lucky envelopes from family members. Family members give gifts to each other as well. Companies give bonuses to their employees and parties are all over.

The Kumquat Tree for TET - Full of fruits

Kumquat Tree for TET
Kumquat Tree for TET | Source

The Red Envelopes on the Kumquat Tree

The front lobbies of businesses, the entrance of temples and homes are filled with kumquat tree to ensure prosperity for the family. Families on this day visit and wish each other joy and prosperity for the coming year.

The Red Envelopes on the Kumquat tree are there for the families to share. Each one has a stack of these envelopes and once you start earning, you are obligated to share some in the envelope with other members of the family. Our grandson had so much fun receiving and giving away red envelopes during the TET new year he celebrated here.

Start collecting money in red colour as red money, red being the symbol of luck is most welcome. Never place in the red envelope amounts which sums up to 4 in total like 4,000 0r 40,000 0r 40 million. These amounts are not huge. 20,000 dong is just the equivalent of a dollar here.

These are similar to the red envelopes for the Chinese New Year.

TET Festival Lion Dance

On New Year's Eve, the Vietnamese celebrate with drums and gongs and anything that creates noise to scare off the evil spirits. Thus, often, fireworks are on as well as firecrackers.

There is the Lion Dance to bring luck to the family so it is not unusual for families or businesses to have these dances performed in their homes or premises.

Prayers at the Temple - To prepare for TET

Praying at the Temple
Praying at the Temple | Source

TET Temple Visits

The temples are busy these days. The Vietnamese go and chant prayers to ask for blessing for the new year. We just happened to be in one of these temples and it was full.

After TET, many Vietnamese visit more temples, at least seven to get more luck so if you're travelling to Vietnam, get ready for the crowd in the temples.

Temple Offering for TET - Asking for blessing

Temple Visit
Temple Visit | Source

Visit to the Temple is Auspicious at TET

It is not unusual to see the Vietnamese offer and pray at the temple but more so the two weeks before TET. Also, immediately after TET. The temples get so crowded especially the ones that are considered auspicious.

TET Envelope

Our grandson receiving a rd envelope from our Vietnamese friend
Our grandson receiving a rd envelope from our Vietnamese friend | Source

The Gathering of the Family for TET

Families get together for TET and give each other the red envelopes. It is customary for the older ones to give the younger ones these envelopes with money. Money must be in red colour and must not be in denomination of 4.

However, once these younger members of the family starts earning, then, they must give the other members of the family these red money envelopes. Friends also give these to one another. It was a joy for us to be part of this sharing as well as the TET family gathering.

Do you know about TET?

TET decoration
TET decoration | Source

Do you know about the Vietnamese lunar new year TET?

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Have you ever been to Vietnam's TET festival?

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Your Guide to Visiting Vietnam - Be in Vietnam for TET

Get yourself a guidebook and start planning your trip to Vietnam. The weather at this time of year around January and February are much cooler and you can enjoy new year here.

Share what you know or experience of TET - Or just let us know you have been here

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    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 2 years ago from Dubai

      Enjoyed reading about the festival, the photos are great.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Yes, it is at the same time. Chinese influence definitely.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      tet festival is similar to our local chinese new year festival, ang pows, fire works, decorations and prayers

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 4 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      festivals are intended for enjoying once in a while. i love this type of festivals. great lens.

    • jamesonsquidoo profile image

      jamesonsquidoo 4 years ago

      Absolutely love this lens!

    • KateAdamsUSA profile image

      KateAdamsUSA 4 years ago

      very fun looking tradition, thanks for the detail.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      It looks very colorful.