Something you should Know about Vietnamese New Year – Tet Holiday

Vietnamese New Year (Tet Holiday) is the most important festival of the year for all the local people. When the cool breeze of the winter is replaced by the warm sunlight of the spring, everyone seems to be excited about the advent of Tet Holiday. At that time, they feel an immense nostalgia, which leads them to wishfully come back to their homeland, say farewell to the previous year with their beloved family and celebrate a new one together, and taste the particular flavors of the Vietnamese festivities. All the best things are well prepared during this holiday since anyone wants to ensure that they will have a new year full of happiness, success, and prosperity. Now, get a better understanding of Tet Nguyen Dan in the North and South of Vietnam!

What is Tet Holiday?

Vietnamese Lunar New Year is also called Tet for short, or Tet Nguyen Dan. As the most significant and widely celebrated public festival of the year in the S-shaped country, Tet is the occasion for the locals to express their remembrance and respects for ancestors as well as the chance for members in a family to gather and share the cozy ambiance together. In the past, the holiday was the most expected moment in the year when people enjoyed one of few long breaks during the agricultural year. Today, everyone, from the kids to the adults and the elder, is eager to welcome Vietnam New Year when they will get together to decorate their houses, eat Tet food, and receive “lucky red envelops.”

When is Vietnam New Year?

In fact, Tet Festival in Vietnam tends to fall in late January or early/mid February. Based on the lunar calendar, the dates will vary from year to year. Celebrated on the first day of the first month in the lunar calendar, Tet is considered the longest holiday, which can even last 1 week or longer. Typically, public holidays are often for 7 days.

In 2018, Tet day falls on February 16th, Dog.
In 2019, Tet is on February 5th, Pig.
In 2020, Tet is celebrated on January 25th, Rat.

With such information above, if you are going to make a trip to Vietnam during Vietnamese Lunar New Year 2019, then it is highly recommended to apply for a visa as soon as possible. The reason is that the embassy offices can close during the holiday time above.

Highlights of Vietnamese New Year in the North and the South

• Traditional flowers

the peach blossoms
Peach flower is one of the symbolic meanings of Tet in the North.
the apricot blossoms
Apricot flower is also another symbolic meaning of Tet in the South.

Tet has no meaning if there is no sight of flowers in every home. In general, the peach blossoms (in the North) and the apricot blossoms (in the South) are all symbolic meanings of flowers for Tet. While the warm pink of the peach may well match the dry and cold of the North, the South seems to be more cheerful and colorful with the yellow of apricot flowers that are highly adaptable to the hot weather of the region. Of course, 2 regions have their own weather condition. For that reason, this creates the difference in color of flowers. After all, both pink and yellow are lucky colors which are perfect to cheer the Lunar New Year festival.

• Five-fruit tray

Five-fruit tray
Five-fruit tray is used not only to decorate the living room, but also to offer to ancestors on the altar. 

Also known as Mâm Ngũ Quả, Five-Fruit Tray cannot also be missed at Vietnamese Tet Festival. The tray is used to not only decorate the living rooms, but also offer to ancestors on the altar. In regard to Tet Holiday in Southern Vietnam, a tray of five fruits on the ancestral altar will be arranged as follows: custard-apple (mãng cầu), fig (sung), coconut (dừa), papaya (đu đủ), and mango (xoài), so that they sound like “Cầu sung vừa (dừa) đủ xài (xoài). According to the Southern dialect of Vietnamese, it can be translated as (we) pray for enough (money) to use. The “5-fruit tray” in the South also symbolizes the residents’ admiration and gratitude to Heaven & Earth and their ancestors, as well as demonstrating their aspiration for a full life of plenty! In addition, the locals in the region also stay away from some kinds of fruit which contain the “bad” meanings, like durian (sadness), banana (afraid of slip), orange (sufferings), etc.

Such the idea is different from the Northerners. The tray in the North tends to be easier and smaller to set up, according to the 5 basic elements of the Oriental Philosophy (wood, metal, water, earth, and fire). Each element has a signature color, and the residents choose the fruits based on this color. The tray in the North often has pomelo, mandarin, banana, persimmon, and peach. Displaying them is not hard. To create a frame, people will put a bunch of bananas in the bottom, then a pomelo in the center of the bananas, while others are organized around.

• Food specialties

Food specialties
Tet is the time to savor various luscious food specialties.

In the Lunar New Year, Chung cake (bánh Chưng) and Tet cake (bánh Tét) are indispensable dishes. In fact, there is the dissimilarity between the regions in food, due to different geography and climate. In the North, the traditional food used to honor the ancestors is Chung cake. The cake is made with glutinous rice, pork, mung beans, onions, and then wrapped by Dong leaves, and tied with a bamboo string. Banh Chung has typically a square shape.

However, the Southerners often honor the ancestors by Tet cake (bánh Tét), which is considered a variant of Chung cake. The Tet cake is generally in the form of cylinder that is made with glutinous rice, mung beans, pork fat, and then seasoned with black pepper and shallots. Then, it is nicely wrapped in banana leaves. So, do you see the difference between them? While Chung Cake is in the shape of square and wrapped in Dong leaves, Tet Cake is a cylindrical form and wrapped in banana leaves. To taste the Tet cake during 3 days of holiday, you are highly advised to eat along with pickled small leeks.

• Customs & Habits

On the first New Year’s Day in the North of Vietnam, the locals treat guests with a small sweet party, including dried candied fruits, roasted watermelon seeds, chestnuts, candies, pumpkin seeds, tea, etc. On the other hand, Southerners welcome guests by being on the booze together. Furthermore, in the North, Tet Nguyen Dan is a golden time for family members to gather, have a fun conversation, visit relatives and friends and exchange New Year’s wishes. Due to the more comfortable thought, the locals in the South have a tendency to spend time and money in travelling somewhere with their beloved family members or friends. In their opinion, Tet is an occasion to get rid of stress and take a rest.

There is a common saying of the Tet holiday: “The first day of New Year is Father’s Tet, the second is Mother’s Tet, and the third is Teacher’s Tet.” For the Vietnamese, celebrating and honoring the arrival of the Lunar New Year looks ahead towards good luck while still centering on happiness and positive values. In addition, a number of festivities are also held with the aim of reinforcing Vietnamese culture, beliefs and tying family bonds.


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