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Vietnam New Year, known as Tet, takes place on the first day of the first month in the Vietnamese calendar, which means it usually falls in late January or early February. In 2019, it falls on February 5, Tuesday.
The purpose of Tet is to celebrate the beginning of a new year as well as the coming of spring. Exuberant festivities held during this time — traditional music and dragon dance shows performed in the streets -make it a good time for visitors to immerse in the local customs.
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 is typically celebrated during three days, but festivities can 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.
Festival dates for Vietnam New Year:
Tet is a very 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, 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.
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 is 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 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.
Considered the "city that never sleeps" of Vietnam, HCMC is 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!
Take part in the festival by trying the traditional 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.
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.
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.
Vietnamese New Year is a great festival to experience, as it gives visitors a glimpse of Vietnamese culture and beliefs. If you are planning to visit Vietnam during Tet, let us help you plan your trip!