The Vietnamese New Year “Tet Nguyen Dan” is quickly approaching. The Vietnamese consider Tet to be the most important national festival of the year. This is the time to travel back to ones hometown to spend the holiday with their loved ones. Although this is the most common time for locals to take a holiday, travelers should not be alarmed by visiting Vietnam during the festival although there might be some precautions needed in terms of arranging transportation. To the contrary Tet is one of the most interesting times to visit Vietnam.
Brief Introduction to Tet
Tet celebrates the coming of spring on the Vietnamese calender and usually arrives either end of January or beginning of February. Vietnamese see Tet as an opportunity to forgive and forget what went wrong in the year. The whole nation begins preparing starting from the previous month. The Tet festivities usually last around a week and take place in every town and municipality in Vietnam.
“Refreshing the house”
Cleaning the house is viewed as one of the key things to do before the holiday. This entails removing old things to remove bad luck and welcoming new year fortunes. According to Vietnamese culture lucky things will visit the clean and tidy houses at the beginning of the year. Besides the superstition this is also a very practical thing to do as many will be welcoming a lot of guests this time of year.
Preparing Traditional Tet Dishes
Food is certainly a focal part of the celebrations. There are a variety of dishes that are unique to this time period that must not be missed out on. Below are the main dishes that should not be skipped out!
Chung cake is a dish that is exclusively prepared on Tet. Made from sticky rice, green beans and pork, which is wrapped in green leaves and boiled overnight this savory cake is worth the year long wait!
2. Go Cha (Vietnamese Sausage)
A pureed sausage wrapped in green leaves, this can either be beef( Gio Bo), pork (gio lua) or one that is made of pork meat, ear, nose, tongue, cheek, and wood mushrooms (Gio Thu). All of them have their own unique flavor and are incredibly delicious.
3.Duai Moi (Pickles)
Tet is the pickle enthusiast dream. Everything from carrots, cucumbers, onions, garlic and turnips get pickled during this time of year. The pickles works perfectly with oily dishes.
4. Mut (Candied Fruits)
These are candied and dried fruits that are generally served as a welcome snack when visitors arrive in your home for Tet. These candied fruits can range from ginger, coconut, pineapple, carrot, pumpkin, lotus seed, star fruit and much more.
Practical Information Regarding Tet
Tet is by far the busiest time in Vietnam for the transportation industry. Flights and trains often get fully booked weeks in advance so it is important to make sure that all of your flights, buses and trains are booked as soon as possible. Note that costs during these days will be significantly higher then other days.
If traveling between the major cities, HCMC, Hanoi and Da Nang be sure to book tickets as soon as possible. If you are going to the Hanoi Airport be sure to go there up to 5 hours before your departure as traffic can be incredibly heavy during the peak days of Tet. Due expect the worst in terms of delays so bringing something to entertain yourself in the meantime is not a bad idea!
Trains are even more difficult then flights during Tet. If you are planning on taking a train try to book as soon as possible and forget showing up at the train station expecting to get on a train.
Buses are not nearly as crowded or over booked as the latter two but booking in advance is still very much recommended. Note that due to the massive increase in bus transportation during this time road accidents become much more prevalent.
Closing Times of Major tourist attractions
Major tourism destinations tend to be be open for the most part. Check online prior to visiting to be sure that you will not get into any issues with entry.
Where is the best place to be during Tet?
To get the maximum experience be sure to be in either Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. The streets will be filled with flowers and decorations and have the most going on in terms of activities. Dalat and Hoi An are also excellent places to be during the Tet Festival.
Chuc Mung Nam Moi (Happy New Year!)
If there is one phrase in Vietnamese you should master when visiting during tet, it is “Chuc Meng Nam Moi” (Chook meng nam moy). You will see this phrase on banners on practically every building throughout Vietnam. The use of the color red is widespread during these days as well as it is the color of good luck.
Superstitions and Taboos
An important ritual for families during Tet is to select the “Xong Dat” or first guest to their house during Tet. It is believed that the first visitor to visit your house during Tet will have a huge impact on the luck of the residents of the house. Therefore one must select the first guest wisely. Generally people try to invite a very tidy and cheerful person to their home as the first guest.
The list of things to do that can bring bad luck during this time period is quite exhaustive. This includes not asking for fire or water as these are the most important components of spiritual life and would be viewed as taking away someones luck. Another slightly peculiar taboo is to avoid combing your hair in someone else’s home. This is considered to be putting your bad luck in someone else’s home and calling for evil.
Certainly the most logical taboo is to avoid starting any arguments during Tet. Arguing is believed to bring bad luck to everyone involved. Surely this is good advice for any family gathering anywhere in the world!
Be sure to check out our guide to events and things to do in Ho Chi Minh City for the upcoming Tet Holiday.