Tet Holiday, also known as Lunar New Year, is the biggest and the most important holiday in Vietnam. Since Tet Holiday is approaching, Vietnamese, as well as other Asia region countries, are now bustlingly preparing for this special occasion. With a country full of traditions and culture like in Vietnam, there are thousands of customs and taboos to welcome this national holiday. Here are 4 Vietnamese customs during Tet.
Kitchen Gods Farewell Ceremony
Each year, although the celebration of Tet Holiday starts on the last day (30 or 31st) of December, according to lunar calendar, its preparation may commence from the 23rd of December (23 thang Chap) with the Kitchen Gods (Ong Tao) Farewell Ceremony.
One week before Tet, Vietnamese people clean up their kitchen, buying foods, paper cloths and living carps, to offer farewell ceremony for Kitchen Gods. It is said that Kitchen God’s task is to report to the King of Heaven about the family’s affairs throughout the year and to wish for a lucky and prosperous new year.
After the ceremony, the carps will be free to the nearby lake or river and paper cloths will be burned.
New Year’s Eve Offerings
New Year’s Eve (Giao Thua) is a sacred tradition of saying good-bye to the previous year and welcoming New Year. At midnight, people offer both indoor and outdoor ceremonies.
Open-air ceremony is made to send thanks to gods. The offering simply includes a boiled chicken or a pig head, cooked rice, flowers (usually roses), fruit, beverage and Joss paper.
Right after that, the indoor ceremony takes place. People light up incenses on the altar and whisper to invite the spirit of ancestors to come back home, celebrating the Tet Holiday with the whole family and wishing for a great new year. After Tet Holiday, another ceremony will be offered for ancestors’ departure to Heaven.
Lucky money (Tien li xi)
Similar to other Asian countries like Korea or China, on the first day of the Lunar New Year, adults gives luck money (“li xi”) to children with the wishes of luck, obedience and well-studying. People also “li xi” to elder people such as their parents and grandparents, hoping them to be healthy, happy and lucky for the coming year. This tradition has been carried out for generations and the luck money is normally put inside a red envelope, the symbol of luck.
The beginning of the year is always considered to be the crucial one that can influence the whole year. Thus, the first-guest to visit the house is very important because that person is believed to bring luck, success and happiness for the family. The first-guest is expected to be someone who is well-educated, good manner, success and well-respected in the society. It is also essential to note that the zodiac sign of this first-visitor should match or harmonize with the owner of the house.
On the other hand, if someone in your family just passed away in the previous year, you are not allowed to visit anyone house during Tet Holiday because according to the old folk, you might bring bad luck to the owners’ family.
* Some customs might be modified in different regions.
By Pham Hong Anh, ASEAN Correspondent from Vietnam