Tet: Vietnamese New Year
Tet is the most important festival in the Vietnamese calendar; a celebration focused on friends, family and preparing for the year ahead.
Tet, short for Tet Nguyen Dan ('Feast of the First Morning of the First Day') is the Vietnamese Lunar New Year - the biggest and most important celebration in the Vietnamese calendar.
Tet usually falls on a date in January or February. It is celebrated on the same date as Chinese New Year, and celebrations go on for at least three days - though usually it's more like a week. Tet is also considered to be the first day of spring, so is also known as Hoi Xuan: 'Spring Festival'.
Vietnamese people start preparing for Tet weeks in advance (much as we start preparing for Christmas as soon as Halloween is out of the door). The actual celebrations are divided into three periods: Tet Nien (the day before New Year's Eve); Giao Thoa (New Year's Eve); and Tan Nien (New Year's Day).
Tet is a family occasion, so most Vietnamese will gather at their family home, visit relatives, worship at family altars or visit the graves of their ancestors to pay their dues and clean the grave as a mark of respect.
There are many other customs practiced during Tet - from the cooking of special foods to cleaning the house, giving lucky money to children and the elderly, playing traditional games, opening a shop or making a pilgrimage. These traditions tend to vary depending on where you are in Vietnam. Most families will also decorate their houses with flowers, including a cay neu (artificial New Year Tree) made of a long bamboo pole decorated with various ornaments and good luck charms.
Tet celebrations on the streets of Vietnam's cities, towns and villages are a noisy affair, with a parade of people trying to make as much noise as possible using firecrackers, drums, bells, gongs, pots, pans - whatever they can find that's loud - to scare off evil spirits. Participants also wear masks and perform traditional Lion Dancing, another tradition that's thought to ward off evil. After the parade, families and friends gather to eat the traditional Vietnamese food they have prepared in a celebratory feast.
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Tet: Vietnamese New Year
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