Almost every home and business will be decorated with flowers – especially the soft rose-coloured ‘dao’ peach flowers and often miniature kumquat trees (bushes). These bushes have been precisely pruned to display ripe deep orange fruits with smooth clear thin skin shining like little suns or gold coins on the first day. This presents our wish that wealth will come to us (and our family and friends) now and in the future.
On the evening before Tet (our New Year’s Eve) the head of the household lights some incense and leads the prayers to the family ancestors. Then at exactly midnight, there will be lots of noise to bring in the New Year – bells ringing in temples, firework displays in public places and people banging on pots and cans.
During the Tet holidays (Vietnamese New Year), we eat some traditional foods: Banh Chung (boiled sticky rice cakes filled with fatty pork surrounded by a mixture of mashed ground green beans and then wrapped in leaves); Thit Ga (boiled chicken), Xoi Gac (sticky rice coloured red with Gac fruit), Nem Chua (fermented pork sausage), Banh Day (pounded sticky rice cake), Gio Lua/Gio Bo (boiled pounded pork or beef sausage), Mut (candied fruits) and Hanh Muoi (pickles). all washed down with lots of Jasmine tea, rice whiskey and beer.
The first day of the New Year is reserved for visiting close family. People dress in their best clothes on this day. Children and younger people pay their respects to their elders – often children are given little red envelopes containing some Li Xi (lucky money).
On the second and third days, the visitors to our home will include our wider circle of friends, colleagues, and relatives. Also people will be out and about in the restaurants and cafes, showing off their new clothes, eating and drinking coffee with their friends.
Tet is a very special time for us and it is a time when people really want to be at home and close to their family and friends. Thousands of Vietnamese people travel to their hometowns – sometimes from all over the world. For this season, if you want to travel in Vietnam during the Tet period, you should book your service as early as possible – that way your rooms and services can be secured and arranged.
For many foreigners… they often feel that it will not be so comfortable to travel in Vietnam during Tet… usually, they have been told so many times that everything will be closed and that they will not be able to get even a simple meal in a restaurant. This is not really 100% true… while a lot of businesses, banks, and Government offices will be closed for the holiday (usually for 3-5 days after the Lunar New Year), a number of places will also still be open. Also, outside Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, many resorts and hotels around the country now offer Tet packages for overseas tourists and locals as well.
If you are curious and want to experience the new year, booking your tours or service ahead will be a great idea.