Tết – Most Precious Days of the Year !
Vietnamese use both Western and Lunar calendar in their daily life. The Western calendar is used for business activities and normal social events such as birthday, anniversary, appointment, etc. Besides, they use Lunar calendar for traditional events such as New Year, Moon days (the 15th day in Lunar calendar) for worshipping ancestors and practice Buddhist vegetarian routine. Buddhism is the religion of the majority in Vietnam. This year the Vietnamese will have 7 days from 14/2 to 20/2/2018. It is a longest holidays the Vietnamese have for the whole year.
What do Vietnamese do during Tết holidays?
Tết is notably a day for family gathering and exchange of good wishes for the coming new year. Therefore, everyone try to come home a few days before Tết in order to have sufficient time to prepare a flawless Tết celebration. The men normally renovate their old house, repaint and fix some damages, so they start to prepare for Tết some months in advance. The women pickle vegetables, make jam and traditional foods for guests and families to eat in the long holiday.
Traditionel dish for Tết: Bánh chưng (North Vietnam – square shape). Bánh tét (South Vietnam – round)
There are so much good foods that has to be prepared, so women also start to buy and prepare around one month in advance. Some delicious traditional foods are bánh chưng bánh tét (steamed rice cake with mung bean and pork), củ kiệu tôm khô (pickle onion with dried shrimp), giò chả (pork and beef ham), thịt kho hột vịt (caramelised pork and eggs), etc. Bánh chưng and bánh tét are big rice cakes and need to be cooked for a long time from 8-10 hours. Therefore, it should be done 3 or 4 days before Tết.
Jam is another traditional dish during Tết, made from sweet potato, lotus seed, ginger, mango with sugar – colourful and tasty
The time for making and cooking these cakes is also the best gathering time for family. Normally, grandmothers and mothers will prepare all ingredients and teach children how to make it. Daddies and boys will start the fire and cook the cakes in some very big pots and ensure to top up firewood for 8-10 hours.
Women and children gathered preparing food for Tet.
while men keeps the fireplace active
Neighbours can share the making of cakes, and the total cooking time by assisting each others which save time and energy. It also serves as an occasion for chatting and gossiping.
Tết – flowers that brings good fortune
One of the very special symbol of Tết is hoa mai (yellow apricot flower) in the South and hoa đào (pink sakura) in the North. Around 3 weeks before Tet, you can see the increasing numbers of flower markets that sell those flowers and other kinds of colourful flowers on the street. Like Chinese, the Vietnamese consider that the more colourful flowers, the luckier year will come.
An apricot bonsai – South Vietnam
Sakura flowers – North Vietnam
The biggest flower markets in Vietnam is Nguyen Hue Flower Walking Street which opens a few weeks before Tet. Every year, flower artists have to create a new motif for the year. Normally, they based on the animal symbol of the Year. Asian countries like Vietnam, Chinese and Japan have 12 animals symbols for circulation between. They are mouse, buffalo, tiger, cat, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. In 2017 it was the year of the roaster, and in order to follow the chronological order, the year of 2018 is the year of the Dog. You will see dog symbols everywhere.
Flower decorations during Tết 2017 – the year of the rooster.
The children can look forward to Tet holidays, because they will get lucky money from adults, days off from school and beautiful new clothes. Lucky money is actually pocket money adults give to children with a wish of luck for the New Year. Normally, when parents give to their children, they also remind them what they expect from them, eg. to be a good boy or girl, have good behaviour, good progress in studying, etc.
The traditional red envelopes for lucky money
The New Year Eve will be celebrated at midnight with a bundle of fruits and a whole boiled chicken for the ancestors. Fruits must be at least 4 kinds of fruits: Pigget Annona, Coconut, Papaya and Mango. After worshipping, Buddhists will come to temples to pray for a good year and get a good branch of leave from the temple and bring to home.
In the 1st day of New Year, all children will visit parents and enjoy a fine lunch or dinner. Parents should prepare enough foods for all family and guests for at least the first 2 days. Children also prepare foods, drinks and fruits to bring to the parents. Neighbours will pay a visit, too. It is an opportunity to apologize if there were any incidents or misunderstand between them in the previous year. During tha day some family games will be organised that involve all members.
The 2nd day of New Year is for in-laws. Daughters-in-laws and sons-in-laws will visit their parents-in-laws and have feast again.
The 3rd day is for teachers. Vietnamese respect teachers just after their parents. They keep in touch with them, even their elementary school teachers.
During Tết holidays, people avoid to curse or talk about bad things. They also need to forgive others’ mistakes and forget unlucky things. If you happen to visit a family, you will receive an invitation for a meal, a snack or a drink. Vietnamese do not plan for a meal, they simply say “Yes” and join the meal.