Tet, in Vietnamese language, symbolizes the very first morning of the New Year in Vietnam and is popularly known as the Vietnamese New Year. Also known by the name of Nguyen-Dan, its celebrations lasts for about 7 days.
The celebrations of the Vietnamese New Year involves a lot of excitement and enthusiasm and is it is regarded as one of the most popular festivals of the year among the Vietnam people. The happiness associated with Vietnamese New Year can be attributed to the fact that this particular festival brings along one of the most desired break in the agricultural year for the Vietnamese people.
As Vietnamese New Year celebrations fall between the period of crop harvesting and the sowing of the new crops, people get much time and opportunity to celebrate this festival of new hopes with much fervor.As far as the preparation for Vietnamese New Year goes, that start days and weeks before the New Year’s Day. People start cleaning and decorating their homes with a belief that by doing so they would be getting rid of bad fortune and bad memories, which were associated with the previous year.People all over Vietnam buy new clothes as well as new shoes and try their best to pay off their debts and even try to resolve the differences among the family members and friends.
The New Year’s Eve is celebrated with a special ceremony by the name of Le Tru Tich, at the midnight hour. The ceremony is initiated with firecrackers and gongs in order to bid goodbye to the previous year and welcome the New Year with loud happy noises.Just like the Chinese, the Vietnamese people are also very much particular about what they do on New Year’s Day, as they believe that the events and actions performed on Vietnamese New Year’s Day determines a person’s luck and fortune for the rest of the year to come. Thus they try to be in touch only with those things, which represent good fortune. People who are in mourning are avoided on this particular day, as they are associated with death. Children are told not fight or even cry on Vietnamese New Year’s Day and the homes are adorned with Hoa Mai, which is a yellow blossom that represents the season of spring and happiness.
New Year gifts are exchanged among the family members and friends and homage is paid to the Kitchen God. The custom associated with the kitchen God tao is also observed in every Vietnamese household for a week before the Vietnamese New Year. Vietnamese people are of the belief that there exist three gods for them, who are duly represented by the three legs of the cooking equipment as used in the kitchen and thus kitchen in the house is the perfect place for these Gods. The middle God is a woman, while the other two are her husbands.
In the ancient times, it was once a custom to provide a carp to the Gods on which they can travel. The carp basically symbolizes the second last stage of the process through which the animals were slowly and gradually transformed into dragons. People used to buy these carp from the market. They used to place it in a bucket of water and used to place the bucket at the altar of the house and in due time it was set free. The people also make it a point to visit local temples on this day in order to pray for God’s blessings for prosperity and good health.The Vietnamese families are known to plant a New Year’s tree in front of their homes by the name of Cay Neu at the time of Vietnamese New Year. A bamboo pole is used for this purpose. People remove all the leaves from the tree so that it can be wrapped or ornamented with good luck red colored paper. According to famous legends in the Vietnamese culture, the red color scares off evil spirits. The Cay Neu is taken down on the seventh and the last day of Tet. This is the last ritual, which brings an end to the New Year celebrations.
The Vietnamese New Year cuisine includes a special rice pudding, which needs to be prepared beforehand. The rice pudding is given the name of banh chung or banh tet. The main ingredients of this pudding are mung beans and pork. Some other famous New Year foods are preserved sweets, beef, chicken, fish, oranges, coconuts, grapefruits and other seasonal fruits, especially watermelon. Watermelon holds much importance, as its flesh is red in color and hence the melon is considered to be lucky. The seeds of the watermelon are often dyed red also and served as delicacies along with other food items. The middle of the day observes an offering on the altar of the household for the ancestor’s of the family by the family members. The offerings are accompanied with burning of incense at the altar. The Vietnamese people are of the belief that the first person to go through the door on the Vietnamese New Year will replicate the family’s future luck and wealth.
The first day of the Vietnamese New Year is reserved for visits to all the closest friends, teachers and parents, while on the second day people visit their in-laws and other acquaintances who are not as close. The third day is observed as the day of visiting the family of the teacher and more distant relatives. The spirits return to heaven on the fourth day of the Vietnamese New Year and business in the Vietnamese household returns to normal. People also make visits to the local temple on this particular day in order to bring back the flowers or greenery as a form of gift from the celestial spirits.