Vietnamese Lunar New Year - Customs

By Duyet Vo | January 22, 2018

Lunar new year is also known as Tet which starts from the end an old year to the beginning of the new year according to the lunar calendar by the ancestors. This is an universal operating cycle reflecting the spirit of merging human and nature. Lunar new year in Vietnamese calls Tet Nguyen Dan which has the word “Nguyen” and “Dan”. The word “Nguyen” mean the beginning and “Dan” means the dawn starting in a new year.


Today, We will find out  about  Vietnamese Lunar New Year - Customs:

Custom 1: Clean and decorate the house      

One of the first preparation steps to welcome Tet Holiday is cleaning and decorating the house. Homes are often cleaned and decorated before New Year’s Day. It is a common belief that cleaning the house will get rid of the bad fortunes associated with the old year. Some people would paint their house and decorate with festive items. As in most Asian countries, the luckiest colors are red and yellow, and this is reflected in the traditional decorations for Tet. People would decorate the inside and outside of their homes, and businesses adorn their shop-front windows. Potted plants, lanterns and other knick knacks fill the markets to the brim weeks before Tet. Most importantly, every home and business need a Tet tree, the Vietnamese version of the Christmas tree. In the South trees with yellow blossoms are the norm, and in the North, pink are preferred. Ornaments are hung from their branches, and with a little luck, the flowers will bloom by New Year’s Day.

Custom 2: Literally means “getting new clothes”

This is property the most exciting part of Vietnamese New Year among children. Parents usually purchase new clothes and new shoes for their children. However, children can not wear their new clothes until the first day of the New Year. The best outfit is always worn on the first day of the year.

Custom 3: Farewell ceremony for the kitchen Gods (Ông Táo)

Seven days prior to Tet, each Vietnamese family offers a farewell ceremony for Ong Tao (the Kitchen God) to go up to Heaven Palace. His task is to make an annual report to the Jade Emperor of the family’s affairs throughout the year. An interesting vehicle for the God (Ông Táo) is “Carp Fish”. People said that the bigger the carp is the faster he could reach up the Heaven.

Custom 4: The plate of five fruits

The plate of five types of fruits sits on the ancestor’s altar in every Vietnamese home during the Tet holiday. The fruits are colorful and meaningful. They make New Year more lively sacred. In Asian mythology, the world is made of five basic elements: metal, wood, water, fire and earth. So, the plate of fruits is one of several ways to represent this concept. It traditionally contains five to eight types of fruits: A bunch of bananas, a pomelo, “Buddha’s-hand” fruit, lemons, oranges, tangerines, apples, persimmons. People world only choose the best looking fruits, and arranged them in a pyramid.

Custom 5: Xong Dat

Giao Thua is the most sacred time of the year. Therefore, the first houseguest to offer the first greeting is very important. Since the Vietnamese believe that the first visitor a family receives in the year determines their fortune for the entire year. So, people would never enter any house on the first day without being invited first. The act of being the first person to enter a house is called xông nhà or xông đất

According to Vietnamese tradition, if good things come to the family on the first day of the LNY, the entire following year will also be full blessings. So usually, a person with good temper, morality and success will be invited into the house first.  However, just to be safe, the owner of the house will leave the house a few minutes before midnight. And return home just as the clock strikes midnight to prevent anyone entering the house first who might potentially bring any unfortunate events to the household.

Custom 6: Buying salt

Why so? The proverb of “new year buying salt, year end buying lime” reflects the ancient traditions of Vietnam. Ending a year to move to the New Year, many people often shop and couldn’t help but buying bags of salt in wishing relationships are “salty”, strong and tight.

Custom 7: Giving away red envelopes

This is a cultural practice that has been maintained for generations. The ritual is called Li Xi or Mung Tuoi. It is very common to see older people giving away red envelopes to younger people. The red envelopes symbolize luck and wealth. However, always remember to give an amount of money that ends with an even number. Because odd numbers would be considered horrible omen for the new year since the traditionally reserved for funerals.

Custom 8: Visiting Pagodas and temples

Tet is also one of the best time of the year for Vietnamese people to spend time on their spiritual life and pay respect to the religious institutions. Visiting pagodas on the first days of the year has long been a deep – rooted tradition. In Vietnam, the custom is called “Lễ Chùa” – in which “lễ” means not only visiting but also showing respects in all sincerity to Buddha and Gods of the temples and pagodas. Mixing ones’ soul with the spiritual spaces, breathing in the aroma of burning incense and flowers help demolishing all the stresses and worries of the previous year.