Tet is the most important festival and celebration of the Vietnamese people. It’s the shortened version of the name Tet Nguyen Dan which in translation means “the first morning of the first day of the New Year”.
Tet is so much more than just a one-day celebration. It lasts for almost two weeks and you can think of it as Christmas, New Years, Birthdays and other holidays bunched up into one big celebration.
Vietnamese follow the lunar calendar, and as such, the date differs every year. According to it, Tet falls on the first night of the first month’s new moon. It falls somewhere between 20th January and 20th February in the Gregorian calendar.
The preparations start weeks before, while the highlight is a few days before the holiday itself.
Tet marks the new year and the arrival of spring according to the lunisolar calendar, and as such, it is often referred to as the Spring Festival, a name also used in other countries.
In the Vietnamese calendar, each year is assigned one of the 12 animals of the Zodiac. 2020 was the year of the Rat, 2021 was the year of the Ox or Buffalo, and 2022 is the year of the Tiger.
Vietnamese believe in a complex Zodiac system, including animals, Ying and Yang, the elements, and astronomical symbols.
Tet is mostly celebrated amongst families as it is also a family holiday, where those that moved away come back to the family home to be with their loved ones. It’s the happiest time of the year.
Essential parts of celebration: - Colorful decorations, most colored red and yellow - Blossoming flowers and trees - Feasts of traditional food - Visiting relatives - Playing games - Shows upon shows - Crafts and art activities
There are some interesting traditions observed during Tet like paying all your debts, cleaning the house, bringing a blossoming Tet tree in your house, giving lucky money to children, and preparing and eating traditional Tet food.
During Tet, offerings are made to the gods and the ancestors. The gods are worshiped outside and the ancestors inside the house. The ancestors are also invited to join the family for a meal, placed as an offering on the altar.
And burning symbolizes the transition of the items from the current world (Yang) to the ancestors in the afterlife (Yin). Fake money and paper models of things are usually burned to bring them wealth and comfort.
This is also the time when you can observe the local craftsmen hard at work carving watermelons and sculpting wooden artefacts.
And Tet is also a great time to find one of the most interesting fruits that you usually can't find in stock in the stores.