Vietnamese New Year

By Victor Bui with special thanks to Chau Ly

Tet Nguyen Dan, or Tet, is the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. It is the celebration of a new year and of the changing from winter to spring. Tet is the biggest and most important holiday for Vietnamese. In comparison, it is the combination of Christmas, New Year, and Fourth of July rolled all into one large festival. For most Vietnamese, Tet is a time for family gatherings, a time to pay respects to their ancestors, and a time to relax from all the hard work from the previous year.

Traditions and Practices of Tet

Since Tet is base on the lunar calendar, the observance of the holiday ranges from January 21 to February 19. The celebration lasts for seven days. The whole process of preparing for Tet starts several days before the actual new year. The house is cleaned beforehand, because if you sweep on new year's day it is believed that you will sweep away all your good fortune. The house is also decorated with flowers and fruit displays symbolizing rebirth and new growth. The family should repay all their debts so they can start anew when the new year kicks in. The seven days of festivity officially begins on Giao Thua (New Year's Eve). It is customary to begin with a ceremony to bid farewell to the Kitchen god (aka Ong Tao or Tao Quan). Each household has this god, and at the last day of the year he returns to heaven to report on the family's behavior of the past year to the Jade Emperor.

Right at midnight, firecrackers are lit to welcome the new year. The explosions are suppose to scare away the evil spirits that roam during this time of the year.

For Vietnamese, the first day sets the tone for the rest of the coming year. A belief that they share with the Scottish is that the first person to enter their homes will dictate the family's well-being and happiness for the rest of the year. This custom is known as "Song Nha." The first day is spent honoring the ancestors.

Then, the parents and adults give little kids money in a little red envelopes called Li Xi for good luck ,the best part of Tet =). Depending on your religion, families either visit the pagoda or Church. The rest of the week is spent visiting relatives and friends, often exchanging gifts and playing cards. Living in America changes some aspects of celebrating, however, a new tradition has formed in the aspect of the festivals. These Tet festivals provide the Vietnamese community a chance to get together and celebrate their biggest holiday and to pass on their culture to future generations.

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