The Vietnamese New Year is known as ‘Tet’ or the Lunar New Year. Formally known as Tet Nguyen Dan, this year’s festival falls on 31 January 2014. Much like the Chinese New Year, Tet is also aligned with the Lunar Calendar and this year is the Year of the Horse according to the Vietnamese Zodiac.
Meaning of Tet Nguyen Dan 2014
Tet Nguyen Dan means ‘Feast of the First Morning’ and is the most important religious and cultural holidays in Vietnam. Its meaning is also aligned with the coming of spring and is generally celebrated on the same day as Chinese New Year (depending on the time difference between Hanoi and Beijing). Vietnam honours the Tet festival with a six day public holiday which runs around 5 February 2014, although many traditional rural communities mark the occasion with up to nine days of festivities.
Special Preparations for Tet
Tet celebrations are steeped in heritage and the event is for the Vietnamese to honour their ancestors, as well as their current family circle. It’s very much a family occasion where the entire family gathers; often spanning several generations. The home is prepared for entertaining and whole families mark the coming of the New Year together. Particular attention is given to the careful preparation of the ancestral altar area within each home. In the run-up to Tet, both inside and outside of the home is thoroughly cleaned – a spring clean if you like! Tradition says that Tet is also the time to focus on healing any relationship issues and becoming debt free.
During the holiday period, vibrant flower market stalls appear on just about every street corner and public market across the country. Bouquets of colourful flowers are popular, as are giving gifts of bonsai, apricot bushes and dwarf kumquat trees. These trees have long been believed to possess powers of spiritual renewal and regenerative properties.
Symbols Associated With Tet
Visitors to Vietnam will be greeted with lavish decorations in vibrant yellow and red: the Vietnamese will dress in these colours, as well as decorate their homes in these hues. Red and yellow symbolise prosperity and good fortune for the year ahead. These colours are worn at the dawning of New Year to inspire self-examination. These and other bright shades will expel evil spirits and foster harmony and goodwill between family members, neighbours, friends and business colleagues.
Special Foods for Tet
Traditional Tet cuisine is as much a part of the event, which foods such as pickled onions, sausage, boiled chicken, rice and roasted seeds and nuts consumed. Particular attention is given to the consumption of nuts and seeds for both nutritional and medicinal purposes. Watermelon (hat dua) seeds are favoured as these are believed to ward off memory loss and heart disease. Pumpkin seeds (hat bi) are consumed to ward off intestinal and kidney issues. Sunflower (hat huong duong) seeds are revered for their anti-aging properties and the ability to promote healthy cell production. Cashew nuts also feature as a source for weight loss and cancer prevention, attributed to their fibre content.
Tet 2014 in Hanoi
Travellers can get involved with the Tet Festival 2014 celebrations too, particularly in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi, which hosts some of the largest and most elaborate events. Gather at ‘Scholars’ Street’ at the Temple of Literature to ask for a special letter to bring you better luck in the New Year. All the family will enjoy the special programme of puppet shows, bamboo dances and folk songs at the New Sun Park within the city’s West Lake Water Park. Children can get involved with the magic shows, games and activities and can even try traditional dishes from the rural communities such as bun oc, aka snail noodle soup! The event runs until 5 February 2014. And finally, travellers can admire the rich Vietnamese heritage within the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, which is running a special exhibit until 28 February 2014. See more than 100 works specially chosen from more than 6,000 objects which highlight Vietnam’s tangible and natural heritage, across painting, architecture, sculpture, festivals, handicrafts, religion, music and dance.
Chúc tết vui vẻ! (Happy Tet!)