Saturday, August 16, 2008

Vietnamese New Year Facts - Tet Nguyen Dan Celebration and Festival

Tet Nguyen Dan - Vietnamese Lunar New Year
Tet Nguyen Dan (also called as Tet) is the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. Tet is the most popular and important festival and holiday in Vietnam. Tet or Vietnamese New Year is celebrated on the same day as Chinese New Year and it lasts for 3 to 7 days. It takes place from the very first day of the Lunar calendar (around late January or early February).

Preparation for Tet starts many days before New Year’s Day. Families save money, store many food and plan far in advance for these special events. Many Vietnamese prepare for Tet by cleaning the house and cooking special holiday foods. Some people paint their houses to give it a new look. They also buy new clothes and pay off all debts before the New Year. The color red, symbolizing happiness and good luck is seen everywhere.

Vietnamese New Year - Lion Dance
The marketplace is very busy days before Tet, as people buy food, firecrackers, flowers, trinkets and other items in anticipation of the holiday. In the afternoon on Tet eve, all people will close all their markets and stores so that they can prepare and enjoy the countdown. Before 1995, it was common to see firecrackers exploding everywhere to scare off evil spirits and welcome the New Year. But because there were 71 people killed in 1994, firecrackers were banned by the goverment, resulting in a very quiet Tet. However, there will be dragon and lion dance at night. Homes are decorated with a yellow blossom (Hoa mai) that represents spring.

Just like any other Asian New Year tradition, Tet is also a time for visits from family and friends. In Vietnamese tradition, first visitor to their home is very important. If their first visitor is rich, happy and prestigious then they believe their family will have good fortune that year. Children should not cry or fight on New Year’s day.

Visitting family and relatives is traditionally done on the first day of Tet. The second day is set aside for close friends and special guests, and the third day is for business associates and teachers to make a visit. Arguments and negative talk are taboo.

Altars are cleaned and decorated with flowers, incense and photographs of deceased relatives because it is believed they will visit the family during the holiday. A tray full of coins, fruits and a tall vase of fragrant blossoms are placed in front of the altar symbolizing prosperity and good luck. Just like Chinese New Year celebration, the third day is also a day to visit the graves of deceased relatives. Many Buddhist will go to their favorite pagoda to pray.

During Tet, most families plant Cay Neu, a New Year’s tree in front of their homes. All the leaves are removed so that it can be decorated or wrapped by good luck red paper. A bamboo pole is sometimes used as a Cay Neu. On the last day of Tet, the tree is taken down and this is the last ritual of the New Year celebration.

Vietnam is a country in the Eastern Hemisphere that was greatly influenced by China for so many years. Therefore, Tet and Chinese New Year have many similarities. Vietnamese are constantly aware of the phases of the moon, and thus all events are always planned by the lunar calendar.

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