When talking About Vietnam, we can not forget to mention about one special holiday in every single year. It is Lunar New Year (Tet Holiday). In the past, as the Lunar New Year fell in the leisure time between two major crops of the year, Vietnamese people considered it as a time for relax and entertainment to compensate for a whole hardworking year and prepare for the new (equally hard) one. Therefore, celebration often last all the first month. Nowadays, the number of official days-off is three but festive moods hardly come off until at least ten days after the New Year's Day have passed.
Like Christmas Eve in the West, Lunar New Year is the time for family and indeed the only time of the year when the whole clan gather together. People always try to return to their hometown to meet with their parents, siblings and relatives no matter how far away they live and work. Being unable to "return home" in New Year is considered a great misfortune. As the result, all means of transportation (airplanes, trains, couches) are crammed in this time of the year. It takes great effort to procure tickets but everyone find it rewarding nonetheless. Even those who have passed away are "invited" to return to enjoy Lunar New Year with the living.
Luna New Year is time of family so all family members contribute in the preparation for the event which consists mainly of cleaning up and cooking. Food which is made especially for this occasion is overflowing in every household. Flowers are indispensable as they are not only for decoration but also believed to bring luck and happiness to the household (from the fact that they are the signal that nature has become fertile again). In Northern Vietnam, the flower symbolizes spring is peach blossom while in Southern Vietnam it is a kind of flower called "Mai" in the native speech.
Luna New Year is a time for visits from family and friends. The first visitor to a home is very important. If the first visitor is rich, prestigious, or happy then the family will have good fortune that year. Usually this visitor is a relative, but sometimes the family will invite a special guest that they feel will bring them good luck. The first day of Luna New Year is reserved for visiting family and relatives. The second day is set aside for special guests and close friends to visit, and the third day is for teachers and business associates to make a visit. Negative talk and arguments are taboo. Visitors end their visit with a farewell wish for the family such as, "I wish that money will flow into your house like water, and out like a turtle.". Vietnamese Children usually have lucky money on these days after they give a luck wishes for aldults.
Food plays a major role in the Lunar New Year celebration. It is a time of excess, one does not enjoy Lunar New Year, and one "eats" Lunar New Year. The first day a feast of boiled male virgin chicken, sticky rice, and a special soup made with clear vermicelli and bamboo shoots, boiled pork, and 3 or 5 duck eggs is offered to ancestors who have returned to their homes. Sticky rice and salt are also offered in the streets to any hungry ghosts who might be wandering in the neighborhood. A traditional food is Earth cake, a Square Cake (Bánh Chưng) made with rice beans and pork. When a watermelon is cut they believe that the redder the watermelon the more luck for the family. Several different desserts and dishes are made with coconut. On the third day another feast of virgin chicken is served to say farewell to ancestors returning to their ethereal abodes. This cake is usually made in North Area, Vietnam. In South area, people usually makes Bánh Tét instead.
Bánh Chưng and Bánh Tét
The way people celebrate Lunar New Year has changed a lot with time but most of the ancient customs related to the event are still observed. Some of them are avoiding conflict at least in the first three days of the year, tidying the resting place of the dead, paying homage to the ancestors and the gods, visiting each other. People also try to do their best in anything they do as they believe that bad luck will haunt if they start the year with failure. The main role of these customs is to ensure that the coming year is a good one. Besides that, they also help to keep everyone happy and everything harmonious in this special time of the year.
Luna New year is also a delightful time to visit the countryside as nearly every village organizes entertainment activities which differ from place to place. These activities take place after the village elders have performed ceremonies to express the gratitude toward the gods and to ask for peace and prosperity in the New Year. In several areas, the ceremonies and the games are also a way to honor the local or national historic heroes.
Vietnam has witnessed a lot of changes but the Lunar New Year festival will never cease to be the time of joy to the people. When you have a chance to visit Vietnam, you should choose this time for visting. Many beautiful decor outside the streets and delicious food for eating. Good Luck for your trip and Enjoy your time in our beautiful country.