Monday, January 27, 2014

Vietnamese New Year

By Jason and Mama

Jamie and Jason have learned about Chinese New Year at Peter Hobart, and we wondered how the New Year is celebrated here in Vietnam.

Vietnamese New Year is called Tet, and it’s celebrated on the same day as Chinese New Year.  Tet is in January or February, depending on the lunar calendar (which is based on movements of the moon).  This year, Tet is on January 31.
Decorating a street for Tet
Making a New Year sign for a building
New Year’s is the most important celebration of the year here in Vietnam.  Did you know that the Vietnamese don’t celebrate birthdays on the day they are born?  Instead, when Vietnamese children are born, they are considered 1 year old.  They turn two on New Year's Day, regardless of when they were actually born.  Everyone celebrates their birthday on the same day!

We wondered if there would be parades or festivities in major cities, like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City (which used to be called Saigon).  But although there are some parades, New Year’s in the cities is quieter than we expected.  Instead, many people go home to their families, many of whom live in the countryside.

We’ve seen lots of people preparing for the New Year – workers hanging decorations over the streets, for example.  Many buildings and businesses have signs reading “Chúc Mừng Năm Mới” – or Happy New Year!  People prepare by cleaning their homes, decorating with kumquat trees and yellow flowers, and perhaps buying a new outfit for the celebrations.

Yellow flowers for sale in Cai Rang floating market
Kumquat trees for sale in the park
Kumquat tree on a motorcycle (with 2 people!)
Kumquat tree on a truck
Red and yellow decorations are everywhere!  According to one local person we met, red signifies happiness and yellow signifies luck for the year to come.

New Year decoration store
Many Vietnamese families believe in "kitchen spirits" that protect their family.  The week before Tet, they send these spirits on a journey to visit the Jade Emperor in heaven.  On Tet, they celebrate with noisy drums, gongs and fireworks to scare evil spirits away and welcome back the lucky ones.

Like Chinese families do for Chinese New Year, Vietnamese parents give their kids red envelopes with lucky money called li xi.  Families also believe that the first visitor of the new year will help determine their luck for the coming year.  They try to have a successful, lucky person be their first visitor.

Vietnamese red envelope
Courtesy of Phan Ba at
Happy New Year, everyone!!!

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