DALL·E 2024 01 20 09.52.35 Image of Vietnamese locals busily preparing for Tet, the Lunar New Year. The scene shows a bustling market with vendors selling traditional decoration

Discovering Tet in Vietnam: An Insightful Guide to the Lunar New Year

Tet, the Lunar New Year in Vietnam, is a festival of significant cultural importance, symbolizing renewal and family reunion. This guide offers an in-depth look at the vibrant customs and practices that define this extraordinary celebration.

Understanding Tet: The Essence of Vietnam’s Lunar New Year

Tet, or Tết Nguyên Đán, heralds the onset of spring and is the most important holiday in Vietnam. Typically observed in late January or early February, it aligns with the Lunar calendar, marking a time of new beginnings and familial bonds. The preparation for Tet is as significant as the festival itself, reflecting the belief that the start of the year influences the months ahead. Homes are thoroughly cleaned, debts are settled, and relationships are mended, all to ensure a prosperous and joyous year.

The decorations for Tet are not just ornamental but are imbued with deep cultural significance. Peach, apricot blossoms, kumquat trees, and elegantly crafted calligraphy are ubiquitous during Tet. These elements are symbols of life, vitality, and good fortune. The peach blossoms, particularly popular in the northern regions, represent the rejuvenation of nature, while kumquat trees, laden with ripe fruits, symbolize fertility and abundance. The tradition of exchanging red envelopes containing “lucky money” is a way to transfer fortune and blessings.

Culinary Traditions: The Flavors of Tet

Traditional Vietnamese Tet cuisine including Bánh Chưng, Bánh Tét, Thịt Kho Tàu, and candied fruits on a festively set table.

The cuisine of Tet is a crucial part of the celebration, with each dish holding special significance. Bánh Chưng and Bánh Tét, traditional rice cakes, are quintessential to the Tet feast. Made from glutinous rice, mung beans, and pork, these cakes are wrapped in banana leaves and symbolize the Earth (Bánh Chưng) and the Moon (Bánh Tét). Preparing these cakes is a cherished family tradition, often involving multiple generations.

Thịt Kho Tàu, a delectable pork dish slowly simmered with coconut juice and eggs, is another staple of Tet. It signifies family unity and is enjoyed during festive gatherings. Mứt Tết, a collection of candied fruits, offers a sweet start to the new year and is a favorite treat among children and adults alike. Preparing these dishes is not just about cooking; it’s a ritual that brings families together, strengthening bonds and sharing in the season’s joy.

Festivities: A Celebration of Culture and Community

Tet is a time of vibrant festivities, combining traditional customs with joyful family gatherings. Lion dances, a common sight on the streets, are performed to chase away evil spirits and bring good luck for the new year. The dancers, often local youths, move energetically to the rhythm of drums and cymbals, creating a lively and festive atmosphere.

Another integral part of Tet is visiting temples and pagodas, a practice that reflects the spiritual dimension of the festival. People go to pray for a prosperous year, good health, and happiness. It’s a time for reflection and expressing gratitude. Family reunions are at the heart of Tet celebrations. Near and far, relatives come together to share meals, exchange stories, and enjoy each other’s company. It’s a time for reconnecting, reminiscing, and creating new memories.

Transportation During Tet: Navigating the Holiday Rush

Busy Vietnamese train station and bus terminal during Tet, crowded with people and luggage for the holiday travel.

Transportation during Tet is crucial for many, as it’s a time when millions travel to reunite with families. The surge in travel demand makes planning essential. Travelers are advised to book train, bus, or flight tickets well in advance. This period saw one of the busiest travel times in Vietnam, often called the Tet migration.

Roads, train stations, and airports are bustling with activity, and the atmosphere is filled with anticipation and excitement. For visitors, it’s an opportunity to witness the great lengths Vietnamese people go to be with their loved ones. It’s also a time when urban areas may be less crowded, offering a different perspective on cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Local Preparations for Vietnam’s Tet: A Community Effort

The preparation for Tet is a communal affair involving various traditional practices. Markets become vibrant hubs of activity as people flock to buy fresh ingredients for holiday meals, traditional sweets, and decorations. These markets are not just places for shopping but social venues where the festive spirit is palpable.

Communities also engage in cleaning and decorating streets and public spaces. This collective effort reflects the shared anticipation for Tet and the importance of starting the year in a clean and beautiful environment. Preparing traditional attire, especially the Ao Dai, is another significant aspect. Tailors become busy crafting these elegant dresses and suits worn to convey respect for the tradition and partake in the festive spirit.

Tet Celebrations Around the World

Vietnamese families celebrating Tet with a feast, traditional games, and a street lion dance performance."

While distinctly Vietnamese, Tet resonates with similar Lunar New Year celebrations across Asia. The Spring Festival is observed in China with its traditions and customs, marked by family reunions, feasts, and dragon dances. Korea celebrates Seollal, a time for honoring ancestors and enjoying traditional games and foods.

In other Southeast Asian countries like Laos and Cambodia, the Lunar New Year is celebrated, each with unique cultural interpretations. These global celebrations highlight the widespread influence and shared cultural heritage of the Lunar New Year, making it a truly international festival.

The History of Tet: Tracing Its Origins

The origins of Tet can be traced back to ancient times, deeply rooted in agricultural practices and ancestor worship. It has evolved over the centuries, shaped by historical and social influences. Tet has always been more than just a festival; it reflects the Vietnamese identity and spirit.

Over time, the symbols and practices of Tet have developed, yet the core values remain unchanged. It continues to be a time to honor the past, celebrate the present, and look forward to the future. Understanding the history of Tet provides a deeper appreciation of its significance in the Vietnamese cultural tapestry.


Tet is more than a festival; it’s a profound cultural observance that reinforces familial ties, revives traditions, and symbolizes hope and renewal. It’s a time when the Vietnamese honor their heritage, celebrate togetherness, and look forward optimistically. As the most cherished holiday in Vietnam, Tet encapsulates the nation’s and its people’s spirit, serving as a poignant reminder of the enduring values and resilience that define Vietnamese culture. This celebration, rich in history and brimming with joy, continues to leave an indelible mark on the hearts of those who partake in its vibrant traditions in Vietnam and worldwide.

Further Reading:

Your Dream North Vietnam Travel Itinerary: A Journey Through Culture and Nature

Discover the Essentials of Travel Medical Insurance in Vietnam: Your Comprehensive Guide

10 Irresistible Reasons Why Vietnam Should Be Your Next Travel Destination

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