The next few weeks see’s the arrival of Lunar New Year in countries like China, Korea, Thailand and, of course, Vietnam,. Called Tết in Vietnamese, Lunar New Year is Vietnam’s most important holiday when families come together from all corners of the country.
In the weeks before Tet, Vietnamese cities literally bloom with heavily flowering trees and shrubs that signal prosperity and pots of yellow and red flowers, the colors of gold and luck. Families stay up through the night to make Tet delicacies like bánh chưng, sticky rice cakes filled with meat and beans to represent Vietnam’s staples, which are first offered up to ancestors before being enjoyed by all. Red lì xì envelopes filled with “lucky money” are gifted to children and the elderly.
Just before Tet, families will take the time to clean the house, garden and altar to make sure everything is neat and organized. During the first three days of Tet, sweeping the house is a no-no because you’ll also sweep your luck and good fortune away.
Fire and water are considered lucky symbols: fire because it’s red, the color of luck, and water because an urn full of water symbolizes fortune and bounty. The Vietnamese also say that “money flows like water”, so homes will make sure they have plenty of water and stoke their fires so as not to run out. If you run out of either, that’s a bad omen, and definitely don’t go asking your neighbor to borrow any.
The Vietnamese believe that the first person to enter your home in the new year can either bring luck or misfortune, so they’ll arrange ahead of time for the richest or luckiest person they know to come calling on the first day of the new year. Unless you’ve been specifically invited, avoid going around and visiting others on the morning of the first day. If you get invited to a families home – your lucky!
If you happen to be in Vietnam during TET celebrations, do be aware that most businesses close for at least 4 days, and although markets and tourist businesses generally remain open, staff numbers are reduced as TET is a very strong traditional time to return to your home town or village and spend time with your family. Airports and rail stations will be extremely busy as everyone travels to and from their home.
Our recommendations are to stay put in one place for the 4 days of TET, which for 2016 is 8th to 12th February. Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi will both have plenty of options for dining and special TET celebrations, or you can choose to take a few days at the beach.