Tet Do's and Don'ts

January 5, 2023

Tet is the Vietnamese Lunar New Year and the most important of all Vietnamese celebrations. Every family comes together to share large meals, decorate Tet trees and eat Tet food.  All to welcome in the Lunar New Year which falls this year on 22nd January. 

Tet is short for “Tet Nguyen Dan”, which translates to: “The first morning of the first day of the New Year”. Tet is ultimately a family celebration and the days surrounding it are carefully divided into who will be visited when. The first day is reserved for immediate family and parents. The second day for close family friends and relatives. The third day dedicated to your old teachers. From the fourth day on it is all about having fun, drinking and enjoying each others company. Not that  this doesn’t also happen on the first days!

You are likely to be invited to celebrate with your Vietnamese acquaintances and neighbours during this time.  In preparation why not learn some Vietnamese – Chúc Mừng Năm Mới! (Happy New Year!) – Pronounced: Chook Mung Nam Moi!

An essential part of Tet is paying respect to the kitchen gods and ancestors. Little tables with offerings of food, incense, and gifts made out of paper, are carefully prepared every day.  Red “lucky money” envelopes are given to children, but to qualify as lucky money the 50,000 VND or 100,000 VND notes need to be new, clean and crisp.

Flowers are literally everywhere. The whole country is covered in red, yellow and pink.. The Tet tree is the Kumquat tree, beautifully equipped with bright orange fruit. These Tet trees grow extremely well in Hoi An and you may see trucks coming into town from all over the country to buy their trees here and sell them elsewhere in Vietnam.

Expect the last days leading up to Tet in Hoi An to be totally, crazy busy – especially around the markets.. Everyone is doing their shopping for the big celebration. 

Tet Rules of Thumb

Remember, Tet is the happiest time of the year in Vietnam, everyone is joyous. This is absolutely no time for arguments, shouting, getting angry or criticising. Any of this would be a bad omen for the year to come.

Apart from that remember:

  • No black clothing, wear as many colours as possible.
  • Don’t upset anybody! Say nothing bad about anyone.
  • Don’t turn up uninvited..
  • Keep talking optimistic and happy. Tet is not the time to talk about bad things that have happened or  could happen – stay positive.

When invited to Tet celebrations in a Vietnamese home:

  • Gifts not expected, but appreciated. A simple idea would be a bottle of alcohol or flowers (but just ensure they are not black not white)
  • Don’t give white flowers . They signify death and are especially not welcome during Tet let alone the rest of the year.
  • During Tet you are not to sweep the house. Please don’t try and be helpful cleaning up with the broom or you may sweep away your guest’s good luck for the entire year!  
  • It is very unlucky to break a plate or glass during Tet so tread wisely.
  • When invited to a Tet celebration, get some red envelopes. Fill them with new 50,000 VND or $1 USD notes in preparation to give them to the family’s children.

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