Tết: The Family Celebration

Tet Holiday, also known as Lunar New Year or Vietnamese New Year is fast approaching and this is great time for families across Vietnam. Traditionally marking the beginning of spring, the start of a new year for agricultural societies, Tet holiday has long held a great significance to the people of Vietnam.

DURING TET, THERE ARE THREE PARTICULARLY IMPORTANT DAYS. THE FIRST DAY INVOLVES THE FAMILY COMING TOGETHER TO VISIT THE FATHERS’ PARENTS. THE SECOND DAY SEES THE FAMILY VISITING THE MOTHERS’ PARENTS AND THE THIRD THE FAMILY WILL VISIT THEIR BELOVED TEACHERS. THESE ARE TIMELESS TRADITIONS THAT WILL CONTINUE TO STRENGTHEN VIETNAMESE COMMUNITIES.

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There’s an old universal truth: family time is quality time. In Vietnam, family is everything. While every culture places importance on family, there is seemingly nowhere on earth where family is more instrumental in an individual’s life than Vietnam. It is very common here for people to choose their careers and live their entire lives in close proximity to their relatives. For those less fortunate, such as migrant workers who are forced to move from the small towns of their families into the big cities like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City for greater work opportunities, Tet is the holiday in which families are reunited. Families begin preparing for Tet weeks in advance. During this time, they will be busy tidying their homes in order to rid themselves of the past year’s misfortunes, and even redecorating the interior and exterior of their homes to welcome a new feel for a new year. You will also find people filling the marketplaces, shops and malls to buy new outfits, as it is believed to bring good luck to start the year looking and feeling fresh. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, brace yourself for a noisy ushering in of the New Year as Vietnamese families chase away the old year and welcome the new one with firecrackers, drums and gongs. Visitors and locals alike can look forward to a spectacular gathering and strolling along the beach.

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One tradition children particularly enjoy and look forward to in the lead up to Tet is the anticipation of receiving red envelopes of lucky money which they not only use to buy candies and toys, but also develop an understanding of the value of money and how to save. By definition, lucky money is a custom that serves to bring luck, health, intelligence and obedience to children and to the generous family members as well. Tet holiday brings along with it many other traditions. On New Year’s Day, families gather to exchange presents and goodwill before sitting down to share a delicious traditional meal, and also perform a ceremony in honour of the gods. After the meal, the people typically flock to the local pagoda to worship and give homage to their ancestors. Everyone is expected to show kindness and compassion during this time as the Vietnamese believe that a person’s behaviour at the start of a year impacts the path of the year to come. Families also display a new year’s tree in front of the house, wrapped with lucky red paper, similar to the Western tradition of the Christmas tree.

Like every occasion in Vietnam, food plays a central role in the celebrations, and this is the one time of year where indulging in excess eating is totally encouraged in the hope that this time of prosperity will continue on for the rest of the new year. Certain special holiday foods are eaten primarily during this period and are synonymous with this holiday; specifically the essential Chưng & Tét cakes, made from rice, beans and pork which blend to create a delicious treat. Although eaten year round as a Vietnamese delicacy, no family alter is complete during Tet without this hearty cake and a five fruit tray as way to celebrate with the spirits of ancestors.

This year’s Tet holiday will run from January 26 to February 1, allowing the public to enjoy seven full days of festivities and family bonding. Apart from hotels and restaurants, most businesses will be closed during the week of Tet. As a holiday destination, Nha Trang can look forward to an influx of visitors from across Vietnam and the world, who come to enjoy the sunshine and warm hospitality of Vietnam’s premiere holiday beach city during this extended time off from work. In any case, travel in Vietnam is particularly busy this time of year with the movement of families back to their hometowns, and any travel plans should be organized as early as possible.

Just as you usher in lights, lanterns and other forms of illuminations to welcome the New Year, may the New Year usher in for you new hopes, dreams and aspirations.

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