Life & English: Tet in Vietnam

Tet, or Tet Nguyen Dan, is the biggest and most popular festival of the year in Vietnam. Tet is the occasion for Vietnamese to express their respect and remembrance for their ancestors as well as welcoming the New Lunar Year with their beloved family members.

Moreover, in the past, Tet was essential as it provided one of few long breaks during the agricultural year, which was held between the harvesting of the crops and the sowing of the next ones. To make it easier, one can imagine Tet as a combination of Christmas and New Year: every family will get together to have big meals, decorate Tet trees and eat Tet food to welcome the new lunar year. The new year of Lunar Calendar normally will start in late January or beginning of February according to Gregorian calendar.

Tet occupies an important role in Vietnamese’s religious belief. Vietnamese people begin their preparations well in advance of the upcoming New Year. They spend a few days cleaning their homes and decorate the house with kumquat tree, branches of peach blossom, and many other colorful flowers. The ancestral altar is especially taken care of, with careful decoration of five kinds of fruits and “bánh chưng”, a traditional Vietnamese rice cake which is made from glutinous rice, green beans, pork and other ingredients.

People also try to pay all their pending debts and resolve all the arguments among co-workers, friends or members of family. Everybody, especially children, buy new clothes and shoes to wear on the first days of New Year. Vietnamese people believe that the color of red and yellow will bring good fortune, which may explain why these colors can be seen everywhere in New Lunar Year. People always smile and behave as nice as they can in the hope for a better year. Besides, gifts are exchanged between family members and friends and relatives, while children receive lucky money kept in red envelope.

Tet is not a day,Tet is several days of celebration. Tet’s celebration is the longest holiday in Vietnam, it can be a week or nine days.


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