Tet holiday or Vietnamese Lunar New Year is the most significant festival in Vietnam. As a result of being calculated by the lunar calendar, Tet often occurs at the end of January, which is later than the New Year’s Day. As the longest public holidays in Vietnam, Tet is the most wonderful time for all foreign tourists to spend their vacation in Vietnam enjoying the festive atmosphere and exploring one of the oldest holidays in the world. Tet holiday 2019 is on February 5th, 2019 (New Year Eve is the previous day).

tet-holiday vietnamese lunar new year

What is Tet Holiday?

Tet Holiday is celebrated to welcome the New Year (Lunar calendar) and summarize what they did in the old year. It is considered an important mark for changes, plans, and progress. In addition, Vietnamese people believe that what they do on the first day of the year will affect its rest. Therefore, they pay great attention to every word they say and everything they do. Furthermore, Tet maybe the only occasion for all family members to have happy moments together after a year of hard-working.

A traditional Tet often lasts for a month. However, the busy life makes it shorter, which is often a week. Recently, some people express their idea to cancel Vietnamese Lunar New Year and only celebrate the Western New Year. Although it is constructive, Tet holiday will have still been remaining as the vital festival in Vietnam because of its priceless tradition, feature, and meaning.

The Features of Tet Holiday

Vietnamese Lunar New Year is NOT Chinese Lunar New Year

It is absolutely mistaken to say that the Vietnamese are celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year. Although both countries use the lunar calendar, the Vietnamese have different customs and tradition from China. According to the historical document, in the thirteenth century, the Vietnamese people often celebrated Tet holiday by painting on themselves, drinking traditional glutinous-rice wine, using betel nuts to welcome guests, and eating Chung cake, pickled onions. In Ly dynasty (1009-1226), many important rituals were made such as setting up a dome to pray for the rains or building communal houses to crave for a year of abundant harvests. In the period of King Le Thanh Tong (1442-1497), Tet holiday was the most important festival and hundreds of mandarins had to gather at the court to celebrate it with royal families.

The Cuisine of Tet Holiday

In the Vietnamese language, to celebrate Tet also means to eat, which affirmed the important role of the cuisine in Vietnamese Lunar New Year. One Vietnamese traditional proverb denotes that you can be hungry all the year except three days of Tet because dozens of delicious foods will be prepared on Tet to feast the ancestors as well as every family members.

Chung Cake

Chung cake is the traditional cake in Vietnam that only appear on Tet holiday. Tasty and savory Chung cake is made from very familiar ingredients to all Vietnamese such as sticky rice, green beans, and pork, which is wrapped in green leaves and boiled overnight. According to a legend that has been passed on for thousands of generations, Chung cake is the symbol of Earth because it combines all unique ingredients of Vietnamese agriculture. Although nowadays Chung cake can be tasted all seasons, enjoying these cakes at Tet holiday still brings special feelings for Vietnamese people.

chung cake tet holiday vietnam lunar new year

Jam

Jam is the common snack to welcome guests on Tet holiday. It is mainly made from dried fruits like carrots, coconuts, apples or some kinds of seeds such as roasted watermelon seeds, sunflower seeds mixed with sugar. The Vietnamese believe eating sweet things on Tet holiday will bring them luck for the New Year.

Pickled Onions

On Tet holiday, people often eat fat and oiled foods which easily cloys their appetite. This is high time for something with low calories and fresh like pickled onions. Pickled onions help the digestive system digest high protein food more easily. In minds of Vietnamese people, Tet is only complete when there are fat meat, pickled onions, and red distiches.

Besides, there is a myriad of signature dishes that inspire the taste in different regions on Vietnamese Lunar New Year such as spring rolls, boiled chickens, Vietnamese sausages, sticky rice and so on.

Mascots of Tet holiday

Vietnamese Zodiac Signs

Each Lunar New Year will have a symbolic animal. 12 Vietnamese zodiac signs are different from Chinese ones (The fourth zodiac sign in Vietnam is Cat while it is Rabbit in China). Every animal will bring the unique lucky in its year so you can see them everywhere in Vietnam through decorations or advertisement signs. Tet holiday 2019 is the year of the pig.

Trees & Flowers on Tet holiday

Peach blossom in Northern Vietnam and apricot blossom trees in Southern Vietnam are also symbols that exclusively appear on Tet holiday. The light red of peach blossom will bring the luck while the yellow of apricot blossom will bring the fortune to the owners. It is said that Tet is not Tet if missing two of them.

Tray of Five Fruits

This is a tray of five different fruits such as bananas, grapefruits, oranges, and other tropical fruits which are only prepared on the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. Although each region chooses different fruits, a tray of five fruits is still used to express the wishes of the host family by their names, colors, and arrangement.

tray of five fruits tet holiday vietnam lunar new year

Neu Tree

It is originally a 5 meters tall bamboo shoot. The chop of the tree hangs different things based on each region such as votive papers, amulet exorcism or alcohol bottle made of straw. It is believed that the tree is the signal for the devils to realize that this place is home of living people, not to harass.

In addition, kumquat trees, Dong Ho paintings, red distiches are also believed by the Vietnamese to bring luck and wealth for them all around the year.

How is Tet Holiday Celebrated?

Before Tet Holiday – How Tet Holiday is Prepared?

Tet Ong Cong, Ong Tao (Gods and Goddess of Kitchen)

On the 23rd of the last month in the lunar calendar, Vietnamese people prepare the traditional offerings and especially the carps to regale three gods and goddess of their kitchen. Then they will release the carps into the river and these fishes will be used by the Gods as the transportations to come to heaven, according to the legend. At the heaven, they will report everything happening in the previous year of their family to the King of heaven. They will come back on the last day of the year to celebrate Tet holiday with the family. The carps then become the dragons. Tet Ong Cong, Ong Tao of Tet holiday 2019 is on January 28th.

worshipping gods of kitchen tet holiday vietnam lunar new year

Altar of the Gods of kitchen

Cleaning the House

Tet holiday is also called by a jolly name “house-cleaning festival”. A week before Tet, all members of the family clean the house, the garden, and the altars as well as redecorate them together. Broken things will be repaired, old things will be replaced. Clothes and decorations such as lanterns, distiches, led lights will be bought. All that preparations have the same purpose – to be the best to welcome the New Year and to receive luck as well as fortune.

The Last Day of the Year & New Year Eve

On the last day of the year, every member of different generations gathers around a grand banquet to enjoy the last meal of the year. The talk at that time is about things already happening in the year. The ambiance of the reunion is always the most wonderful and happiest of all time.

last meal of the year tet holiday vietnam lunar new year

Last meal of the year

In New Year Eve, the young often go out to watch the firework performance while the elderly and adults stay at home making offerings of pig head, boiled chicken, rice and salt for outdoor worshipping to the Gods and indoor one to the ancestors. They will pray for a new year of luck, health, and fortune to every family member.

After that, the young come back home and become the first one coming to the house in the new year. It is believed that the wishes of that person for the host will come true. Then everyone gathers again to drink some alcohol or juice. Then the wishes, as well as plans of every person for the new year, will be shared with others.

During Tet Holiday

Tet Holiday traditionally lasts for three days. People often stay at home to welcome guests to their house or go to relative and neighborhood houses. The elderly will be received the wishes for health, the adults will be received the ones for fortune and success while the young and children will be received lucky money. Laughs and talks appear everywhere on Tet holiday these days. Besides, Vietnamese people often go to pagodas. By donating money and asking for letters, they will receive several lucks and fortune.

ask for letters on tet holiday vietnam lunar new year

Asking for letters

Festivals after Tet Holiday

Tet ends when votive papers are burned and offerings are taken down from the altars to share for every family member. It is the time for people to join in festivals all around the country such as buffalo fighting festival or boat racing, wrestling, lion or dragon dances. Festivals will be organized for a month after Tet holiday so you are able to attend and explore them as many as possible.

Vietnamese Lunar New Year is the priceless value of Vietnam and an indispensable part of the life of all Vietnamese people. Plan Vietnam tours to enjoy Tet holiday and experience unforgettable experiences of Vietnamese cultures, customs, and tradition.

The Dates of Tet Holiday & the Corresponding Zodiac Animals

Year Vietnamese Lunar New Year Date Vietnamese Zodiac Sign
2000 2000-02-05 Dragon
2001 2001-01-24 Snake
2002 2002-02-12 Horse
2003 2003-02-01 Goat
2004 2004-01-22 Monkey
2005 2005-02-09 Chicken
2006 2006-01-29 Dog
2007 2007-02-18 Pig
2008 2008-02-07 Rat
2009 2009-01-26 Buffalo
2010 2010-02-14 Tiger
2011 2011-02-03 Cat
2012 2012-01-23 Dragon
2013 2013-02-10 Snake
2014 2014-01-31 Horse
2015 2015-02-19 Goat
2016 2016-02-08 Monkey
2017 2017-01-28 Chicken
2018 2018-02-16 Dog
2019 2019-02-05 Pig
2020 2020-01-25 Rat
2021 2021-02-12 Buffalo
2022 2022-02-01 Tiger
2023 2023-01-22 Cat
2024 2024-02-10 Dragon
2025 2025-01-29 Snake
2026 2026-02-17 Horse
2027 2027-02-06 Goat
2028 2028-01-26 Monkey
2029 2029-02-13 Chicken
2030 2030-02-03 Dog