Tết Nguyên Đán is a way of saying Lunar New Year in Vietnam, and it literally means, “the first morning of the first day of the New Year”. It is one of the most important festivals for the Vietnamese people and is a national holiday as well.
The Tết Festival was originally celebrated by Vietnamese farmers to thank the gods for the arrival of spring, a practice that dates back thousands of years. Today, it’s a time for paying respects to ancestors and welcoming the New Year with family members.
Held between late January and early February, it is officially a three-day celebration but festivities may continue for about a week (sometimes more) with every effort made to indulge in eating, drinking, and socializing.
The first day of Tết is a bustling affair with prayers, reunion dinners, and gift exchanges held between family members. Visiting relatives and friends is one of the key activities during Tet. The order of visitations depends on your blood relation and your status in society. Children usually receive money kept in a red envelope by their parents and elder relatives. As with most Asian countries, Vietnamese often wear red and yellow during the festivity as they believe those colours symbolize prosperity and good fortune.
The second day of Tết is generally dedicated to visiting the extended relatives. By the third day of Tết, people would visit the homes of friends, bosses, or colleagues. This is also the day when the spirits of ancestors return to heaven and families would offer gifts of money and luxury goods such as cars and clothing to their deceased relatives by burning miniature paper versions.
Throughout these days, the streets are filled with people performing lion dance performances with drums, bells, gongs, and firecrackers going off to ward off evil spirits. Buddhist temples all around Vietnam are also packed with locals giving donations and getting their fortunes told during Tết.