Lighting up lanterns for Tet

Nga Do
It is unclear when and how lanterns became a must-have decoration for Vietnamese families during important holidays, especially the mid-autumn festival and Tet, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year FestivalSome scholars criticized the practice, saying it was not a Vietnamese tradition to hang lanterns on the New Year.

But no matter what they say, they have never been able to stop lantern streets around the country from lightening up every night, attracting lots of people, this time of the year. If you love these colorful paper lanterns that come in different shapes and sizes, you should check out the following areas.

Hang Ma Street, Hanoi

Part of the famous Old Quarter, Hang Ma has been a popular place for paper goods used as votive offerings for hundreds of years. In recent years, natives and even people from neighboring provinces have also gone there to buy Christmas and New Year decorations. During the weeks before Tet, lanterns are one of the street’s bestsellers, besides Tet-only goods like red envelopes the Vietnamese traditionally put in money and give each other as good lucks.

As the street is almost dominated by red – Tet’s traditional color, it looks so much cmore heerful, attracting droves of visitors who come for shopping, or simply doing more leisure things like watching people and taking photographs. Do not forget to look out for pickpockets when visiting the area.

Hoi An Town, Quang Nam Province

Lanterns are, undoubtedly, one of many great things that tourists love about the ancient town, which is lit up by thousands of the hand-made lamb every night. As Tet is coming, locals are replacing their old lanterns with new ones and even adding more, making Hoi An brighter and more colorful.

Every year, during the Lunar New Year holiday, local authorities organize a festival which includes a ceremony of floating lanterns along the Hoai River. For just a few dollars, tourists can ride a boat along the river to float their lanterns while making prayers for their new year. 

Legend has it that lanterns were introduced by Chinese people who came and settled down in the town in the 16th century. The immigrants hung lanterns in front of their houses as a reminiscent of their home country. But, over centuries, Hoi An people have developed the craft of making lanterns that are often praised for having originally Vietnamese designs like pumpkin, garlic, and papaya.

Phu Binh, Ho Chi Minh City

Located in District 11, part of Vietnam’s largest China Town, Phu Binh has been in the business of making traditional lanterns – those made from bamboos and red plastic papers, often carrying shapes of stars, fish and butterflies – for more than 50 years.

The business has not been doing well over the past decade due to the invasion of Chinese lanterns which are often made from plastic and lit up by batteries, not candles.

But, the neighborhood and its people are still busy bees, when it comes to the mid-autumn festival and Tet. These days the alley that leads to Phu Binh Church from Lac Long Quan Street is lit up by shops that sell thousands of lanterns made by locals.

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