April 4, 2013


Tet, Vietnamese New Year, is the most important holiday for the Vietnamese. Everyone celebrates their birthday on Tet, according to birthdaycelebrations.net. The actual date of Tet depends on the lunar calendar and varies from year to year, though it always coincides with Chinese New Year, which takes place in January or February. Vietnamese New Year is a time to get together with family and celebrate one's ancestors and culture.

Tet officially lasts three days, but the preparations begin a week in advance. A week before New Year's Eve, family members clean the house. Some families even repaint the house. It is believed that cleaning the house gets rid of bad fortunes from the old year. That night, the family offers a farewell ceremony to the Kitchen God, who is known as Ong Tao. The Vietnamese believe that Ong Tao goes to the Heaven Palace to report on the family to the Jade Emperor.

On Giao Thua, New Year's Eve, family members offer a ceremony to welcome Ong Tao back to earth, as well as to bid farewell to the old chief and welcome the new chief. The chiefs are the same twelve animals from the Chinese zodiac; the chief for 2013 is the Snake. Vietnamese children say what chief they were born under rather than saying how old they are. At the stroke of midnight, family members beat drums, light firecrackers, and encourage dogs to bark to welcome the new year.

Tet is a holiday to honor family and ancestors. On New Year's Day, family members gather in their hometowns. Incense is burned in honor of deceased family members. Traditionally, people visit close friends and parents on the first day of Tet. On the second day, people visit in-laws and other friends. Distant relatives are visited on the third day. There is a belief that the wealth of the first visitor on Tet will determine the family's luck for the entire year, so families try to invite wealthy people to their homes. Children wear their best clothes and everyone is on their best behavior, since the Vietnamese believe that one's actions during Tet influence a family's luck for the entire year.

Tet decorations are very important and symbolic. The plate of five fruits represents the five basic elements: metal, wood, fire, water, and earth. The fruits are arranged in a pyramid, and the plate is sometimes decorated with flowers.

A five fruits plate: credits to missouri.edu
 Parallel sentences are hung by the door. A pair of parallel sentences contain the same number of words, with contrasting or corresponding meanings. An example of a parallel sentence is "On the New Years’ Eve, pay debts on all sides; bending your legs, kick out poverty. On New Years’ day, rice wine makes you drunk; stretching your arms, carry in wealth" (credits to missouri.edu.) A piece of bamboo, known as a Cay Neu or New Year's Tree, is raised in the front yard and decorated with bells, clay fish, and thorny branches. It is taken down after seven days. Flower symbolize new beginnings, so many homes are decorated with flowers during Tet. Peach flowers and apricot flowers are the most popular.

Traditional Tet foods include banh chung (sticky rice cake) and pickled onions. Pork dishes, sugarcoated coconut, and boiled chicken are also common. Eating is an important part of Tet. The Vietnamese expression an Tet (to eat the Tet) refers to the tradition of celebrating Tet with a feast for the entire family.

A very important tradition is the presentation of sealed red envelopes. Older people give red envelopes to younger people to congratulate them on being another year older, as well as to remind them to live harmoniously with others. The envelopes contain li xi, lucky money.

Birthday shoutouts to Nathan and AJ. Sorry it took me so long to do these birthday shoutouts!

1 comment:

  1. We should do as they do to prepare for Tet - do a big housecleaning and some repainting. This house needs both!

    But other than that, the usual informative, well-written post - great job!