For the Vietnamese people, Tet is the most sacred time of the year.
On lunar New Year’s Eve, each member of a family and of society exchange sincere good wishes, strengthening common cultural ties. Tet is also time to reflect on the spiritual life.
In Hanoi, on the stroke of midnight, the whole family sits down to eat together. The house has been cleaned well in advance. The family altar is decorated with fresh flowers, fruits (5 kinds of fruits with 5 different colors) and red candles. During Tet, angry words are forbidden. Most Hanoians visit pagodas, and make sure to bring home a leafy branch, an ancient symbol of prosperity.
During the next few days, it is crucial for people to visit as many of their relatives, friends and former teachers as they can manage. As an old proverb says:” the first day of Tet is for parents, the second for friends, and third for teachers”.
When visiting families, it is customary to offer children and old people money in a lucky red envelope, to wish the elderly a long life and the children a year of fast growth. Visitors wish their hosts happiness, wealth and success as soon as they arrive.
In the Centre of the country, people put a lot of energy into Tet’s preparations - they are busy baking biscuits and sweets months beforehand. The people of Hue in particular are famous for their delicious food, cakes and jam.
During Tet, old people sit down together to share a bottle of wine. In Hue, people who have mastered Chinese calligraphy to give as seasonal presents are greatly respected. Some hire boats and drift down the Perfume River reciting poetry recalling old times and floating candles on the water.
Tropical HCM City is more vibrant, with friends getting together to have fun. Here as well, people visit pagoda, often next carrying huge sticks of incense or giant candles.
The free and easy Saigonese are not as bound by tradition as their northern cousins. Many take their families to beaches, pagoda and amusements centres. Most shops stay open, and shopping is a popular pastime. Just like in the rest of the county, though, the Saigonese never forget to wish one another all the best for New Year.