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Vietnamese New Year 2020—Tet Festival


Vietnamese New Year, or Tet Festival falls on January 25, Saturday in 2020, welcoming in the year of the pig.

What is Tet

For most Americans, they recall the 1968 Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War. Tet Nguyen Dan or shortened to Tet, is Vietnam’s Lunar New Year. It is the most important annual celebration and public holiday in Vietnam, that spans nine days.

Tet, celebrates the beginning of a new year, as well the coming of spring. Exuberant festivities are held – traditional food, music and dragon dancing performed along the streets. With the sense of celebration in the air, visitors can enjoy this festive occasion.

When is Tet

Tet is based on the lunisolar calendar., and generally celebrated on the same day as Chinese New Year. The date changes annually, but usually fall between late January or early February. Celebrations can range from 3 days and continue for up to one week. The festival is split into the day before New Year's Eve, New Year's Eve, and New Year’s Day.

All of these days correspond to the Vietnamese or lunar calendar, so they will happen on a different date every year.Tet Festival will fall on Saturday, January 25 in 2020 and on Friday, February 22, 2021.

Vietnamese New Year 2020 – a year of rat

Shares similarities with Chinese New Year, Vietnamese New Year is important for the Vietnamese people as what they do on the first day of the year will affect the rest. Therefore, they pay great attention to every word they say and everything they do.

Time and dates for Vietnamese New Year and Lunar Zodiac Animal

  • 2020: January 25 – year of rat
  • 2021: February 22 – year of cow
  • 2022: February 1 –year of tiger
  • 2023: January 22 – year of rabbit
  • 2024: February 10 – year of dragon
  • 2025: February 29 – year of snake
  • 2026: February 17 – year of horse

Why Vietnamese New Year is celebrated

Celebrated as a time of renewal, Tet serves as an opportunity for Vietnamese people to pay homage to their ancestors and to have family reunions.

Preparations begin a week before Tet, as people start to return home, clean the family graves, worship the family altars and decorate their homes with apricot blossoms, peach blossoms and kumquat trees, symbolizing the hope of prosperity and well-being.

Tet Traditions and Customs

Of all festivals in Veitnam, Tet is the most family-centered holiday, and Vietnamese people often travel back to their original family homes, to spend the holiday with their extended families. On Tet, families will prepare a feast to welcome visiting relatives and friends, to exchange greetings and best wishes for the New Year.

Before Tet

Before Tet, Vietnamese families will normally spend a lot of time sweeping and cleaning their homes. This action represents the cleansing of bad luck from the previous year and making room for the coming of the New Year.

The Vietnamese believe that the spirits of deceased family members will visit the living ones during Tet, so they venerate the ancestors by cleaning their family shrines, a display of pictures of ancestors, incense, and offerings of flowers and fruit. Before Tet, the shrines are well cleaned out and new offerings and decorations are placed there.

The intense festival atmosphere fills the streets with dazzling displays of colorful flowers. People shop around markets to buy decorations for their homes, ingredients for cooking traditional Tet food, and new clothes for wearing when visiting friends at New Year.

The New Year

The first day of Tet, however, is typically reserved for the nuclear family. On this day, children will receive red envelopes with money from their older relatives.

New Year's Day is celebrated with people in the streets making loud noises, using firecrackers, drums, bells, and gongs to ward off evil spirits. There is also a parade that takes place on this day. Parades happen all over the cities; lively events full of people wearing masks and performing lion dances.

After the firecrackers and parades, families come together for a large feast of traditional Vietnamese dishes.

Since the Vietnamese believe that the first visitors to a family determines their fortune for the whole year, they like to invite someone of good morality to be the first one visiting the house to bring them full blessings for the New Year.

Tet is also considered a lucky time of year for opening a shop or starting a business.

Where to Celebrate Tet in Vietnam

The three best cities to travel to during Tet are Hanoi, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City, because, unlike other cities and small towns, many shops and stores stay open during the festival.

Hanoi for the capital celebrations

Hanoiis the capital city, providing more options for visitors during the Tet period. Though attractions like museums, monuments and public service centers all will be closed during the entire week starting from the day of Tet, travelers can still join in the New Year celebrations by walking around the Hoan Kiem Lake area.

Some businesses will be closed, but not all. Most graded hotels are open, and tourist-specific events put on a show for business. It is easy to find some restaurants for dining. Most grocery stores will be closed, but big shopping malls will open during the day.

We suggest that you arrive in Hanoi several days before Tet to visit the attractions and markets first and then stay there to experience the New Year. If you are invited to a Vietnamese family, it will be much more fun because of the interaction with locals.

Hoi An for traditional activities

Hoi An is typically considered the place to be during Tet. Shops and restaurants do not close down and many people travel to Hoi An to join the celebrations. Most of the festivities happen in the Ancient Town, which is an ancient port city and UNESCO World Heritage site in the center of Hoi An.

During Tet, the Ancient Town is lively and picturesque, with street-food vendors lining the ancient pathways, lit by Vietnamese traditional lanterns. There is plenty of shopping to do and even lantern-making classes to attend. For the whole week, Hoi An also offers regular culture and art performances. 

Ho Chi Minh City for fireworks and flower festivals

Considered the "city that never sleeps" of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City a place known for its nightlife. Here there are parties, lavish dinners, creative and fun cocktails, and plenty of people staying up all night.

On the second day of Tet, or Lunar New Year's Eve, locals will light fireworks in the streets of HCMC and many people will head to the bars to count down to the New Year. 

For those who want to celebrate the holiday just like the Vietnamese, there are two festivals that happen in HCMC at this time: the Nguyen Hue Flower Festival and the Tao Ban Flower Festival.

At these colorful events, everything will be covered in bright yellow and orange flower decorations and there will also be folk music, games, and delicious food to try!

Tet Festival Food

Take part in the festival by trying the traditional Vietnamese food! Tet is a time of indulgence with an array of delicacies served in every family, from pork, chicken, sticky rice to candied fruit. The following three delicious dishes are the most popular ones eaten by Vietnamese people during Tet as part of their celebration.

Banh Chung

Only eaten in Vietnam during Tet, this tasty treat is made of tightly-packed sticky rice, which may include either a meat filling or bean spread. This sticky rice is then traditionally wrapped in banana leaves, to keep the inside fresh for the duration of the festival.

Gio or Cha

This is Vietnamese ham or sausage and during Tet is often served with sticky rice. You can order this festival food in two different ways. Gio means the meat is boiled and if you ask for cha you will receive meat that has been fried.


This is the Vietnamese classic: sticky rice. Xoi is eaten during many festivals in Vietnam, as it is considered a staple for all meals meant for worshipping the ancestors. It can be made with many different ingredients, including peanuts, mung beans, or fruit.

Tet Festival greetings – How to say Happy New Year in Vietnamese

Vietnamese is a tonal language and can be a challenge to learn. However, during the Tet season, locals will understand you as soon as you start with a big smile and say “chúc mừng năm mới”. It means Happy New Year in Vietnamese, which sounds like “chook moong nahm moi”.

Tips for Visiting Vietnam during Tet Festival

  • Book hotels and transportation in advance, as many Vietnamese people travel during Tet and things will be busy and possibly full.
  • Ticket prices, especially for planes and trains, will increase during Tet so it is important to budget for higher costs.
  • Many public places such as museums, art houses, and mausoleums will be closed for 4 days during Tet.
  • Depending on which city you travel to, some shops and restaurants will also be closed during Tet. 
  • In large crowded areas, it is important to keep your belongings safe and be wary of pickpockets. 

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