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Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year 2017 and 2018

While the Lunar New Year is celebrated in many areas of the world, the holiday in Vietnam has many unique characteristics.

YearDateDayHoliday
201726 Jan to 1 FebThu to WedLunar New Year (Tet Nguyen Dan)
201815 Feb to 21 FebThu to WedLunar New Year (Tet Nguyen Dan)

Known in Vietnam as Tet Nguyen Dan, or simply Tet, the Lunar New Year is a celebration of spring and the upcoming year. The Tet holiday starts on the beginning of a new year based on the Chinese lunar calendar. On the Gregorian calendar, the Lunar New Year falls between the end of January and the middle of February. In most of Vietnam, Lunar New Year celebrations last at least three days. During this time, the Vietnamese people spend time with family and friends while reminiscing about the past year.

Traditions

Although many of Tet’s traditions are borrowed from Chinese culture, the Vietnamese have blended the holiday into their own culture and surroundings. Aspects of the holiday such as cooking and celebrations have been altered to suit the customs of Vietnam.

  • Cooking

    A large feast is shared among family members on the first day of the Lunar New Year. Because of this, it is necessary to purchase ingredients on the days leading up to the holiday. Many of the dishes are based on local ingredients, so traditional foods often depend on region. One of the most popular dishes enjoyed during the New Year feast is banh chung. Bahn chung is a rice cake the consists of glutinous rice, mung beans, pork, and other ingredients that depend on the area and the preferences of the chef. Bahn day is also a common Tet food. Bahn day is a sweet rice cake that is chewy due to its glutinous rice. The cake is wrapped in banana leaves and served in pairs. Another popular Tet celebration food, canh mang is a soup made of pickled bamboo, broth, and pork, chicken, or seafood. This tangy soup is a staple of Lunar New Year feasts throughout Vietnam. Canh mang is often paired with gio lua, a Vietnamese pork roll. Portions of gio lua are often cut into thick slices and served on plates. Before and after the feast, a few ceremonial words are spoken to honor the ancestors.

  • Preparation

    During the week before the Lunar New Year in Vietnam, the entire family works together to clean every part of the home. Exterior walls are scrubbed, floors are swept, furniture is dusted, and windows are washed. Once the home has been thoroughly cleaned, it will be decorated with various celebratory items. Following the spring theme of the Lunar New Year celebrations, Vietnamese people will place a plant in the rooms of their homes. Some of the most common plant choices include marigolds,chrysanthemums, and bonsai trees. In central and south Vietnam, hoa mai and kumquats are placed in the central rooms of homes. In the north, a peach flower, or hoa ban, is used. At the center of the home decorations is a holiday tree made from a bamboo pole. This bamboo pole is decorated with various charms, cactus branches, and other objects. It is also a common practice for Vietnamese families to purchase new clothes to wear during the holiday and the upcoming year. While traditional garb may be worn, it has now become more common for people to buy modern clothes that can be used on a regular basis. While these practices of preparing for the New Year allow people to pay respects to ancestors, they also serve the purpose of tidying up the home when there are no other commitments.

  • Start a New Business

    The Vietnamese Lunar New Year is a time of good fortune and new beginnings. Because of this, it has become a custom of many Vietnamese people to start a new business or expand their existing enterprises. A small party will usually be held by a business person to celebrate the opening of their newest shop.

  • Giving Money

    Similar to the tradition in China, it is a custom of parents in Vietnam to give children a small sum of money to enjoy during the beginning of the New Year. This practice encourages children to give respect to their parents throughout the New Year.

  • Decoration of Public Places

    Private homes are not the only places that are decorated to celebrate the new year. Many businesses and public facilities are covered with artsy banners with calligraphy.

Celebrations

During the Tet holiday, many loud celebrations are held to ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune for the New Year. Throughout Vietnam, large fireworks displays are enjoyed while people wear bright festive clothing. One of the main celebratory activities for the Lunar New Year is lion dancing, or Mua Lan. This consists of two dancers wearing a costume of a gold and red lion-dragon hybrid while dancing to drums and the explosions of firecrackers. Saigon is one of the most vibrant places to celebrate the Lunar New Year in Vietnam.

Greetings

During the Tet holiday, it is polite to offer a greeting to friends, family members, and strangers. The traditional greeting for the holiday is ‘Cung chuc tan xuan’. This greeting can be used to wish a good spring to anyone that you encounter during the holiday. Another commonly used greeting is ‘chuc mung nam moi’, or ‘happy New Year’. This is a literal translation of the Western New Years greeting and has become more popular in recent years.

The Lunar New Year is a celebration of fortune and happiness and one of the largest holidays that the Vietnamese people recognize.