Tet Holiday - Vietnam Traditional Lunar New Year

Nga Do
Tet holiday (Tết Nguyên Đán), more commonly known by its shortened name Tết, is the most important and popular holiday and festival in Vietnam. It is the Vietnamese New Year marking the arrival of spring based on the Lunar calendar.

Tet Holiday - Vietnam Traditional Lunar New Year
Photo by Donal Trung

Overview of Tet holiday

Tet Holiday is the biggest annual celebration of Vietnam in the first days of lunar New Year. During these days, people welcome a new coming year with good health, lucks and success. Tet holiday is very special for Vietnamese families to reunite and celebrate together.

Tet is the occasion for Vietnamese to express their respect and remembrance for their ancestors as well as welcoming the New Year with their beloved family members. Moreover, in the past, Tet was essential as it provided one of few long breaks during the agricultural year, which was held between the harvesting of the crops and the sowing of the next ones. To make it easier, one can imagine Tet as a combination of Christmas and New Year: every family will get together to have big meals, decorate Tet trees and eat Tet food but to welcome the new year instead of a religious cause.

When is tet?

Different from the Gregorian calendar, Lunar Calendar has a fix number of twelve months with 30 days each, and a leap-year will have a whole intercalary month instead of the 29th day of February. The new year of Lunar Calendar normally will start in late January or beginning of February according to Gregorian calendar. That explains why Tet days vary from year to year: it is because the leap month may fall shorter or longer which create a smaller or bigger gap between the two calendars.

2017 lunar new year on January 28, the actual holiday will last 1 day before and about 3-5 days after the day mentioned above.

Tet Holiday - Vietnam Traditional Lunar New Year 1
Photo by  nguyentuanhung

The history of Tet

Vietnam’s New Year is closely linked to its Chinese counterpart, and much like their northern cousins, each of Vietnam’s lunar years are named after an animal. In the lead up to a new lunar year, the animal symbol of the coming year is woven into the decorations on homes, buildings and ancestral altars.

Despite its close connections to Chinese New Year, Vietnam’s Tet holiday is distinct not only in geography, but in its traditions and history, too. Like almost all Vietnamese holidays, Tet is steeped in tradition and folklore that has been passed down through generations, and these stories are unique to Vietnam.

Tet culture

Since Tet occupies an important role in Vietnamese’s religious beliefs, Vietnamese will begin their preparations well in advance of the upcoming New Year. In an effort to get rid of the bad luck of the old year, people will spend a few days cleaning their homes, polishing every utensil, or even repaint and decorate the house with kumquat tree, branches of peach blossom, and many other colorful flowers. The ancestral altar is especially taken care of, with careful decoration of five kinds of fruits and votive papers, along with many religious rituals. Everybody, especially children, buy new clothes and shoes to wear on the first days of New Year. People also try to pay all their pending debts and resolve all the arguments among colleagues, friends or members of family.

Like other Asian countries, Vietnamese believe that the color of red and yellow will bring good fortune, which may explain why these colors can be seen everywhere in Lunar New Year. People consider what they do on the dawn of Tet will determine their fate for the whole year, hence people always smile and behave as nice as they can in the hope for a better year. Besides, gifts are exchanged between family members and friends and relatives, while children receive lucky money kept in red envelope.

Tet Holiday - Vietnam Traditional Lunar New Year 2
Photo by Hoangnha90

Customs and activities during Tet holiday

No matter where Tet is celebrated, it must be clarified from the beginning that Tet is not a day, but several days of celebration. The general process is as follow (all dates quoted in lunar calendar):

1. Clean and decorate the home.
2. Ông Công, Ông Táo Day (Kitchen God day) - December 23rd
3. Wrapping Chung cake - December 26-28th
4. Family reunion and Tất niên - December 30th
5. Giao thừa - New Year's Eve: including praying sessions to God and Ancestors, Xông đất  (First visit to a family in the new year)
6. Giving away red envelopes (filled with lucky money)
7. First three days of the new year: visit paternal side on the first day, maternal side on the second day and teachers on the third day
8. Visit relatives, friends and neighbours: can take place from January 3rd - 5th 
9. Hóa vàng - burn the offerings near Tet's end for ancestors: January 4th
10. Reopen business: usually owners pick a good date that matches their age
11. Tết Nguyên Tiêu: January 15th

Food for Tet holiday

The following food is often consumed during Tet; some are particular to Tet and often associated with the grand celebration:

- Banh Chung/ Banh Tet
- Pickled onions
- Boiled chicken
- Mung bean pudding
- Vietnamese sausage - giò chả
- Xôi Gấc - Red Sticky Rice
- Roasted nuts and seeds
- Mut - Candied fruits

Tet Holiday - Vietnam Traditional Lunar New Year 3
Photo by An Mai

Thing to know about Tet holiday

In the days following Tet holiday, most public buildings including museums, schools, shops and restaurants close for celebrations. This often means that the city grinds to a glorious hault for a day or two, which can be an experience in and of itself to see Vietnam’s usually frenetic streets nearly empty. Many museums, mausoleums, indoors exhibition place and art houses will be closed for at least 4 days.

Travelling to vietnam during tet holiday

Tet has a very special attached meaning to all Vietnamese. It is the time for everybody to come back to their hometown, gathering with family, visiting relatives and having a good relaxing time after a hard-working year. If you have the opportunity to visit Vietnam during Tet holiday, make sure you join this festive and happy moments of Vietnamese!

>>> Have a look at best Vietnam Tour during Tet holiday: http://vietnamtypicaltours.com/tour/christmas-new-year-holiday-2015/  >>>

Traditional cuisine, festivals and customs have made the culture of Vietnam Tet becomes unique, attracts a lot of tourists and especially foreign tourists travel to Vietnam. Let us help you plan your trip to the Tet holiday in Vietnam, where many special and fun waiting for you to explore. Please contact us at:


Hanoi office : 2nd Floor, No 8, Ma May Street, Hoan Kiem, Ha Noi, Vietnam
Hotline : (+84) 974.861.652 - Ms. Jenny
Email: info@vietnamtypicaltours.com - vietnamtypicaltour@gmail.com

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