Tet’s traditions ring true for Vietnamese New Year

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Hannah Nguyen/Staff Illustration

Lunar New Year is one of the most crucial holidays in Vietnam and is heavily influenced from China. In Vietnamese, it is called “Tet” for short.

Despite decades of innovation and development, the people are still preserving the culture, no matter what. Even a person who does not believe in superstitions would probably follow this because Vietnamese people take “luck” very seriously.

In about a week before Tet, each family has a custom, Cung Ong Tao, for the guardians of the house to show appreciation to them for keeping the family in peace and wealth for the whole year.

On this day, the family often deep cleans the entire house. When done, they send off the guardians on their way back to heaven so they would positively report the past year to God and wish for luck in the upcoming year. According to the folk tales, the guardians ride flying carpets to reach heaven.

Also in the last week of the Lunar calendar, the relatives of a big family gather to take a trip together to the ancestors’ graves. They clean and decorate the graves, and bring fruits and incenses to invite the ancestors to come back home and celebrate Tet with the family.

For the last dinner of the year, the family serves a feast to welcome the ancestors who accepted the invitation. The eldest child leads a ceremony to wish for luck for the whole family in the upcoming year, then the younger ones would follow up with wishes of their own.

On the New Year’s Eve night, some families go to the pagodas and temples to pray to Buddha for a new peaceful year to come. After that, they pick a lucky branch from the lucky tree (usually a mandarin orange tree) to bring home. People believe the healthier the branch looks, the luckier the family would get.

In the first morning of Lunar New Year, the first visitor into one’s house is considered very important; the belief is that the upcoming future of the whole family would be affected by the first guest that steps into the house.. Therefore, the host often asks a close relative or a close friend that is under the same zodiac as that year to bring luck for the family.

During the holiday, people often share a lot of blessings when they meet up. It is considered rude to not greeting them with blessings and a smile. Adults will give younger ones some “lucky money,” which is put in a small red envelope to bless the kids to succeed in the next academic year.

Vietnam, like other Asian countries, considers red as a lucky color and that is why red is the main color of Tet.