Tet – Tet Nguyên Đán (Spring Festival, Lunar New Year, or Vietnamese Lunar New Year) origins meaning “Festival of the First Morning of the First Day”, is the most important celebration in Vietnamese culture. Tet is generally celebrated on the same day as Chinese New Year (also called Spring Festival).
Tet celebrates the arrival of spring based on the Vietnamese calendar, which usually has the date falling in January or February in the Gregorian calendar. Tet Nguyên Đán (Spring Festival or Lunar New Year), is not to be confused with Tet Trung Thu (or Mid-Autumn festival), which is also known as Children’s Festival in Vietnam.
The first day of Tet is reserved for the nuclear family. Children receive red envelopes containing money from their elders. This tradition is called mừng tuổi (happy new age) in the North region and lì xì in the South region. Usually, children wear their new clothes and give their elders the traditional Tet greetings before receiving money.
Since the Vietnamese believe that the first visitor who a family receives in the year determines their fortune for the entire year, people never enter any house on the first day without being invited first. According to Vietnamese tradition, if good things come to a family on the first day of the lunar New Year, the entire following year will also be full of blessings. Usually, a person of good temper, morality, and success will be a lucky sign for the host family and be first invited into his house.
However, just to be safe, the owner of the house will leave the house a few minutes before midnight and come back just as the clock strikes midnight to prevent anyone else entering the house first who might potentially bring any unfortunate events in the new year, to the household.
During subsequent days, people visit relatives and friends. Traditionally but not strictly, the second day of Tet is usually reserved for friends, while the third day is for teachers, who command respect in Vietnam.
These celebrations can last from a day up to the entire week, and the New Year is filled with people in the streets trying to make as much noise as possible using firecrackers, drums, bells, gongs, and anything they can think of to ward off evil spirits. This parade will also include different masks and dancers hidden under the guise of what is known as the Mua Lan or Lion Dancing.
Fireworks displays have also become a traditional part of a Tet celebration in Vietnam. During New Year’s Eve, fireworks displays at major cities, such as Hà Nội, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang, are broadcast through multiple national and local TV channels.