Lunar New Year is the biggest traditional festival as well as the special holiday of Asian countries in general and Vietnam in particular.In Vietnam, Lunar New Year is known as “Tet Nguyen Dan” or commonly known by its more shortened name “Tet”. Tet is not only the beginning of spring in the North of Vietnam, a sacred transfer from old year to new year but also a warm family reunion. Even though family members live and work far away from home, they all return home to welcome the new year. Everyone gathers to share their stories of the past year and wish each other a peaceful and lucky year. In addition, it is also an opportunity to express gratitude to their ancestors, a custom rooted in our finest traditions.
Vietnamese family reunion on Tet holiday - source: collective
Vietnam is divided into 3 regions: North, Central and South. Therefore, on Tet holiday, in addition to the common customs and traditions of the Vietnamese people, it also contains cultural differences in each region.
A traditional Tet in Northern Vietnam
On Tet days, Northerners attach great importance to traditional customs that have been handed down through generations. Northerners often gather together on New Year's Eve to welcome that precious moment. Then, they talk about the past year, say good things to each other and wish a happy and prosperous new year. On the 1st day of Tet, Vietnamese often go to pagodas to pray for health and luck and ask for letters simply written by a calligraphy master as a sign of good luck. Besides, each family will invite someone suitable to enter the house with the New Year's greetings. It is called “First footing” - a traditional custom to bring good things to the homeowner.
People asking for calligraphy letters for the New Year - source: Vnexpress
Food is an important factor on Tet holiday. The culinary culture of the Northern people attaches great importance to form, so the Tet tray needs to be presented elaborately, meticulously and beautifully. Their tray not only focuses on the delicious and beautiful taste, but also looks full of colors symbolizing the four seasons of the year, which is also a wish for a prosperous new year. Tet with the Northern people cannot be complete without a Chung cake wrapped in square form from dong leaves, ingredients inside including fragrant sticky rice, green beans and fatty meat. Although modern life has many changes, in the Tet tray in the North, there must always be the following dishes: steamed momordica glutinous rice, Chung cake, boiled chicken, jellied meat, pickled onion, fried spring rolls, lean pork paste,...
The traditional Tet tray in the North - source: collective
Due to the very cold weather in the North, people choose peach blossoms to decorate for Tet. This is the ideal weather condition for the pink color of peaches to bloom and be more vibrant than ever. Peach is a symbol of Tet in the North, so when you see peach blossoms on the street, you realize that Tet is coming very close, another spring has come.
Peach blossoms on the street - source: collective
A modern Tet in Southern Vietnam
With a liberal spirit, the traditional customs of the Southern people on Tet holiday may also gradually be simplified to suit modern life. However, they still keep the original Vietnamese traditional culture. These idyllic customs are the link between the past and the present, showing the typical character of the people in the South. Besides family reunion, they tend to combine outdoor activities or travel to other regions to energize a new year.
For the South, the typical cake on Tet holiday is Tet cake. Tet cake is wrapped in banana leaves with the same ingredients as Chung cake, just wrapped in a long cylinder, not a square like Chung cake. The meals at Tet in the South are meticulous and unique. Caramelized pork and eggs, stuffed bitter melon soup, lotus root salad, Tet cake, boiled chicken, dried shrimp, pickled small leeks,.. are the traditional dishes in the meal of southerners during Tet.
The must-have dishes in Tet tray of the South - source: collective
If the North has peach blossoms, in the South, people often use apricot blossoms to celebrate Tet. The bright yellow color of apricot flowers is a symbol of glory, success, and fortune. People in the South often buy apricot trees with many buds to have flowers bloom at the right time of New Year's Eve. In particular, the more petals the flower has, the more fortune and luck it will bring.
Apricot blossoms - source: collective
A Tet in Central Vietnam - cultural interference between the two regions
While the North and the South have their own unique cultural beauty on Tet holiday, the central area is a combination of the other regions. People in the Central region also have the custom of “first footing” like people in the North. On the morning of the 1st, families here visit their ancestors' graves, to pray for peace. In the following days, people will visit relatives, neighbors and friends to wish them a happy new year.
People visiting their ancestors' graves - source: collective
The Tet dishes in central Vietnamare not as sophisticated as the North, but they are very rich and diverse, due to the interference between the North and the South. Central people can make Chung cake or Tet cake served with pickles depending on each locality. Pickle dishes are made from many different types such as carrots, onions, palanquins, cucumbers, papaya,...Tet of the Central people also has snow-flaked cake, “to” cake, “rang bua” cake,... for Tet dishes full of sweet and savory flavor.
Like the South, the Central region prefers apricot blossoms on Tet holiday to peach blossoms. However, they still welcome Tet holiday with both apricot and peach blossoms. Because of the weather conditions in the Central region, they can also grow these two flowers.
Children receiving lucky money from grandparents - source: collective
Although there are differences in customs and culture on Tet holidays of each region, this is a special occasion for Vietnamese people to gather with their families, exchange lucky money and wish each other luck, prosperity and health in the new year. For foreign tourists, a trip on Tet holiday will be a unique and interesting experience to discover Vietnamese culture.
Written by Lan Anh, Assistant Manager for Mr Linh’s Adventures