TET Festival in Vietnam. (Year of the Cat)

Tet is a wonderful time of year to get to know your Vietnamese friends and their family. Make the most of this time to learn about the culture.

Flower Street In Vietnam

Tet in Asia 2023.

The Lunar New Year is observed in many Asian nations from late January to mid-February. The world’s largest yearly human migration occurs over the holiday as hundreds of millions of people travel back to their homes, paralyzing the global economy and creating crazy traffic jams.

China.

The Lunar New Year is the only time of year in China when the entire nation gathers for a family reunion at once. The government estimates that approximately three billion journeys will be made during the 15 days of celebration.

South Korea.

Except for a few years when they alternate by a day, the Chinese New Year and South Korea’s Seollal coincide for the most part. Three days are often spent celebrating the holiday, including the day before and the day following. On New Year’s Eve, Koreans remain up till the wee hours because, according to local myth, if you don’t, your eyebrows will turn white and you’ll age more quickly than usual.

Bhutan.

The longest night of the year, the winter solstice was originally the day on which Bhutan celebrated the New Year or Losar. However, the nation later synchronized with the Tibetan calendar thanks to Buddhism and began to observe Losar in February, as did Mongolia and Tibet. As it was the day when people gave their yearly offering of grains to the monk Ngawang Namgyal, the religious figure who brought Bhutan together.

Mongolia.

The Mongolian word for the new year is Tsagaan Sar, which means “White Moon.” During the festival, Mongols used to wear only white clothing, ride white horses, and consume only dairy products. The country’s nomadic herders celebrate the New Year as the arrival of spring after the long and difficult winter. A month before the festival, families must clean their homes, fix any broken items, make food for the feast, and either purchase or make new traditional clothing to wear on the big day.

Laos.

In Laos, the New Year begins much later—in mid-April—than in other Asian nations. The start of the monsoon season coincides with the hottest time of the year. Water is the most prominent element of their New Year celebrations, perhaps as a result of this. Young people participate in water fights with each other on the first day of the year to wash away any negative karma. This happens after pouring water on their elders, and Buddhist monks and requesting blessings of long life and peace.

Vietnam New Year 2023.

You will already see from the brief descriptions above that the main focus of TET is the coming together of family and friends to celebrate this time of year. A lot of time, effort, and money go into Tet and there are some very important traditions to do.

As well as things you should do there are also things that should not be done. For example, before the holidays begin the house gets a thorough cleaning. However, you should not sweep anything out the front door because your money will go along with the dirt. It will be swept out the door and you will have a bad year financially.

The Year of the Cat in Vietnam.

My Vietnamese zodiacal sign is the dog. And as the animal sign for 2023 is the cat, I am unsure as to what this means for me in this coming year. My wife, Nga, has already told me that this year is not an auspicious year for me. I enter this year with trepidation, what will happen to me?

The year of the cat lasts from January 22nd, 2023 through to February 9th, 2024. And the cat is the 4th sign in the Vietnamese zodiac.

Vietnamese New Year (Tet) is based on their lunisolar calendar that gives a varying date in January/February that Tet will fall upon. Each Lunar New Year marks the start of a new zodiac sign year, as shown below.

Tet Festivities.

Even while the public holiday only lasts six days, local festivities last roughly 20 days, starting on “Minor New Year” or “Kitchen God Day” (January 14 in 2023) and ending with Tet Nguyen Tieu, or the “First Full Moon of the Year” (February 5th, 2023).

Visiting someone’s home on the first day of the new year (xông nhà), doing ancestor worship, exchanging New Year’s greetings, presenting lucky money to youngsters and the elderly, and visiting friends, family, and neighbors are just a few of the customs and traditions that are observed during Tet.

Tet is a time for family get-togethers. Vietnamese people visit their families and temples during Tet. This is the time of year to look forward to a better new year and forget about the problems of the previous one.

Vietnamese people, like those in other Asian nations, think that the colors red and yellow would bring good fortune, which may be why these hues are so prevalent during the Lunar New Year (And also the flag). People consider what they do on the dawn of Tet will determine their fate for the whole year, hence people always smile and behave as nicely as they can in the hope of a better year.

Tet and Family.

During Tet, most Vietnamese people visit their families. Some people go back to their hometown to catch up with family and friends.
Some people go back to their hometown to catch up with family and friends.

All Vietnamese celebrate Tet, although each region and faith has its own customs and traditions.

Tet can be divided into three parts in the three Vietnamese regions.

These parts are called Tất Niên (Before New Year’s Eve), Giao Thừa (New Year’s Eve), and Tân Niên (the New Year, and they stand for the preparations leading up to Tet, Tet eve, and the days of and following Tet, respectively. All of these customs are to celebrate Tet in Vietnam.

Tet Traditions and Customs.

According to Vietnamese custom, if a family experiences good fortune on the first day of the lunar New Year, the entire following year will also be fortunate.

A family’s fate for the entire year is determined by the very first visitor they have in the new year. A person with high morality, success, and “good standing” is fortunate; yet, the contrary is viewed as unfavorable.

Sweeping is discouraged during Tet because it represents throwing good fortune or money out the door or window.

The second day of Tet is often allocated for friends, whilst the first day is for family. Nevertheless, this is not strictly followed. The third day was traditionally reserved for teachers.

Visiting Pagodas and Temples During Tet.

A pagoda visit is customarily advised during Tet. The practice is referred to as “Lễ Chùa” – in which “lễ” denotes paying homage to Buddha and the deities represented in pagodas and temples and visiting them.

Despite their busy schedules during Tet, all Vietnamese make an effort to visit their local pagoda and make well their wishes for the upcoming year.

Tet and Flowers in Vietnam.

Wherever you go on the lead-up to get you will see flowers. They will be in the local markets, on the side of the road, and totally filling your local park.

Unless you have spent time in Vietnam during Tet you will have no concept of the number of flowers that are on show everywhere in the lead-up to Tet.

The Vietnamese decorate their homes during this festive time with a variety of flowers and plants. Chrysanthemums, marigolds, Mao Ga flowers, paper flowers, and lavender are a few examples of what is used.

Even if it’s not yet common, some people showcase orchids and roses nowadays. Additionally, three plant species—peach flower, ochna integerrima, and marumi kumquat—are synonymous with Tet and should be present during Tet celebrations.

Mao Ga Flowers.

Look at “Tuoi Tre News”, the English newspaper from Vietnam for more information about “Flower Street” and the beautiful display of TET flowers for 2023.

Tet and Food in Vietnam.

There are quite a few different types of food on offer over Tet. However, it sometimes feels that “Pork and Eggs” are the main source of sustenance during this period. During my first Tet, I really enjoyed this standby. However, after 3 or 4 Tets and visiting numerous families where they would dish up “Pork and Eggs”, “Pork and Eggs”, “Pork and Eggs” “Pork and Eggs”, “Pork and Eggs”, “Pork and Eggs” repeatedly like a lost wandering Turkey after a New Years Eve, you start to wonder if your taste buds have gone crazy.

It is quite honestly delicious. Nice juicy chunks of braised pork belly with coconut milk and eggs – a fatty, sensuous melt-in-your-mouth delight – and it can be eaten with pickled vegetables for an orgasm-in-the-mouth moment.

Traditional Tet Foods.

Families and friends get together to commemorate this occasion with one another through a range of customs and activities, like gift-giving and cooking traditional foods, as we have already covered.

Gift baskets for Tet are stuffed with sweets including candy, fruits, and traditional Vietnamese cakes. Additionally, there are delicacies like Xôi, Bánh Chung, and Bánh tét.

This is a holiday where food plays a significant and symbolic role. For many people, the celebration would not be complete without festive appetizers.

This is also why in the Vietnamese language, Tết is not celebrated but rather “eaten”. And, oh boy, there is a huge selection of different foods you can enjoy.

Here is a post about => Vietnamese street food <= that may help you understand the importance of food within Vietnamese culture.

Do’s and Dont’s about Tet in Vietnam.

In Vietnam, there are several traditions that specify what should and should not be done at certain times. You should follow these guidelines, especially if you have been welcomed into a Vietnamese family’s home during Tet.

  • Do enjoy yourself and have fun with these beautiful people in this wonderful country.
  • Do prepare “lucky money” for younger children and older citizens to express good wishes. These should be given with both hands and normally only in small denominations. If you are going to someone’s home over yet check if they have children so you can prepare the “lucky money” in advance.
  • Do exchange gifts during Tet, especially if you have a business arrangement. The most popular gifts are sweets like cookies, chocolates, fruit baskets, wine, soft beverages, and other goodies. In most cases, individuals can get a gift set from the store that includes a variety of foods. Use this chance to strengthen your relationships with any Vietnamese business partners you may have.
  • Do buy new clothes before Tet as you wish to look as good as possible over these holidays. Also, smile and turn that frown upside down.
  • Do pay back any outstanding debts. This is the time of year to clear the slate and be fresh for the new year.

And don’t.

  • Don’t swear, argue or be rude over Tet. Do not talk about death, or swear and argue. We should be bringing no conflict or bad thoughts into the new year. We need to calm down and be peaceful.
  • Don’t commit cruelty to animals. This is the time of year you can set animals free. Birds are the most typical animal released during Tet festivities. Because of this, during the Tet holidays, birds are sold in pagodas. This idea derives from Buddhism, which holds that individuals will experience luck if they do good things for others.
  • Don’t sweep the house or empty the bins. Especially on the first day of the new year, sweeping the home or emptying the garbage will cause all of your luck and money to leave your home. So, remember to do this. Tet is not the time to drop things on the floor and dirty the place and it is best when visiting someone to ask before you do anything significant.
  • Don’t wear black or white clothes as they symbolize death and are commonly worn at funerals. Colorful clothes are recommended.

Final Thoughts.

Vietnam, the country and its people are, for the most part, beautiful people and Tet is a great time to get to know them and their families.

You want to try to get to be invited to someone’s “hometown” and see how they live and enjoy themselves. Tet otherwise can be extremely boring as most people have left the city and it can be difficult to find a good restaurant open or a lot of services open as well.

I remember one Tet before I knew many people and it was difficult to find anything (Outside of the tourist and pricey areas) or anywhere to buy food and other services.

It is a good idea to stock up your fridge (if you are an ex-pat) and have phone cards or other day-to-day needs covered before Tet happens.

However this is a great time to relax but because everyone else is holidaying at the same time, it is pricey and crowded.

Stephen.


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4 thoughts on “TET Festival in Vietnam. (Year of the Cat)”

  1. Hi Stephen.

    This was almost like reading a long holiday postcard about Vietnam from a friend. Great article. I was aware of the TET Festival but knew just a tiny fraction of it compared to what you have written.

    TET seem like a joyous time to visit Vietnam if you have friends living   The focus on food, family, relatives, and friends makes it familiar to me as I have a wife from Turkey. During the two Ramadan periods and the celebration of New Year’s Eve, the focus is on the same things you described for TET.

    Another similarity is the importance of having a good supply of “gift money” and candy for the children when receiving guests at home or visiting others during the festive/holiday period.

    A very good read about Vietnam´s traditions! 

    Roy

    1. Thank you, Roy,

      Vietnam is a great country to visit, however, if you do it over Tet these things will make it easier to get by.

      Stephen 

  2. As I scoured your article on the Tet Festival in Vietnam , I was utterly captivated by the timeless customs and traditions that make up this joyous holiday. Family plays an integral role during this celebration, as does being mindful of certain behaviours. Could you enlighten me further about the importance of reconnecting with loved ones during Tet? I am also fascinated by the significance of the zodiac in Vietnamese culture and how it is believed to shape one’s destiny in the months ahead. Could you expand further on  this and its connection to Tet Festival? Overall, I believe your piece is wonderfully written and highly informative.

    1. Family is seen as one of the most important things in Vietnam life. Often the family will be split through the year due to work, and Tet is a great way to reconnect. Tet is one of the busiest times for travel as people go back to their “hometown” to be with their relatives. It is very refreshing that such importance is placed on the family.

      And in regards to the significance of the zodiac signs in Vietnamese culture, you can get a very good book from Amazon for under $10.00 that comprehensively covers this.

      Uncovering the Vietnamese and Chinese Zodiac Signs.

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