Tết is an important nine-day celebration that celebrates the New Year in Vietnam. In other words, Tết marks the Vietnamese New Year and this colorful celebration takes place in either January or February at the very beginning of Spring.
In case you might be asking yourself, Tết is short for “Tet Nguyen Dan” which translates into Sino-Vietnamese as “feast of the first morning on the first day”. For locals, this important period is a time to look forward with hope and leave the troubles of the past behind. As you can imagine, this also means that locals all over the country return home to spend time with their families during the New Year in Vietnam.
But what exactly happens during Tết?
Let’s take a closer look at this vibrant period and what you need to know before traveling to Vietnam for the celebration.
Celebrating Tet & The New Year In Vietnam
Tết follows the very same calendar as China which means that New Year in Vietnam coincides with that of the Chinese New Year. At the same time, there are some unique nuances with celebrations in Vietnam to look out for. For example, hooting owls are considered very unlucky during Tết, while dogs barking is considered a sign of confidence and hence, this is encouraged by locals.
In preparation for Tết, most locals begin cleaning their homes, organizing their finances and picking up new clothing for the celebrations. Simply put, this is a time when Vietnamese people actively try to rid their lives of “bad fortune” and fill this void with hopes of prosperity.
Vietnamese locals also lay on an impressive feast for their friends and family during Tết. You will find that gifts are exchanged during the New Year in Vietnam and everyone will visit a place of worship and possibly one of the many public parades.
As a rule, the first few days are supposed to be spent with family, with friends, and friends of friends being welcomed into the circle as the celebrations progress. Interestingly, locals are often found burning gold leaf paper to “the Kithcen God” as a means of appeasing this god for any of their wrongdoing. This is also a time for locals to pay their respects for their deceased relatives.
But what does this mean to you, the traveler?
What Does New Year In Vietnam Mean For Visitors?
Well, even though Tết is very much a local celebration, visitors are always welcomed to join in with the festivities. You see, at midnight on Tết, the Vietnamese welcome the New Year with some extraordinary firework displays. Meanwhile, drums and chants fill the air as a very vibrant atmosphere takes over the streets.
Also, you must understand that this is a time of grace and giving, as Vietnamese people believe that what happens during Tết is a sign of what will happen in the upcoming year. Similarly, most households also believe that the wealth of the first visitor through their front door on Vietnamese New Year will determine their own wealth in the year to come!
Moral of the story: Vietnamese people will be more than happy to see you during Tết!
Now, here’s a quick overview of the best places to visit for Tết and celebrating the New Year in Vietnam.
Activities & Things To Do During Tet
Hue, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh are the most popular places to visit for New Year in Vietnam and where many events, fireworks and celebrations are common.
As you can imagine, the former capital of Hue is a focal point of celebrations where a “Tet Pole” is raised on the grounds of the Hue Imperial Citadel. This happens on the very first day and interestingly, the “Cay Neu” in Hue Citadel (traditional bamboo plant) is also the largest one you will see during the celebrations.
Hoan Kiem Lake, Ngoc Som Temple and Quan Su pagoda are some of the best places to visit during the New Year in Vietnam. Also, many events are held at the Hanoi Opera House and, unless you want to avoid the crowds, this is the best place to witness a huge fireworks display.
3. Ho Chi Minh
Tết is the only time of year when a floating market takes place in Ho Chi Minh—Binh Dong Floating Flower Market in District 8. However, there are many more pleases to join in the festivities around HCMC such as the ornament street in Hai Thuong Lan Ong (Chinatown) or Nguyen Hue Boulevard where the street is lined with endless colorful flowers.
5 Tips For Travelling To Vietnam For Tet
Finally, here are some simple tips for spending the New Year in Vietnam:
1. Hotel Bookings
Each of the above destinations gets incredibly busy during the New Year in Vietnam, so make sure that you book hotels well in advance. Also, expect that prices will be higher during this period.
2. Reserving Transport
Tết is a time when locals are traveling all over the country to return home, so keep in mind that even the transport requires advance reservation.
3. Stores and Supplies
For the first three days of Tết, many stores are closed. With this in mind, remember to pick up shampoo and basic supplies in the days leading up to the celebrations.
4. General Security
Vietnam is generally a very safe place but Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi are places where crowds and unsavory characters can go hand in hand. In other words, watch for pickpocketers and leave your valuables in the hotel whenever possible.
5. Learn Some Vietnamese
It should go without saying that locals always appreciate when a visitor takes time to learn some of the language. However, this is especially true during Tết when you have the opportunity to greet locals in their own language.
Tết takes place on February 5th in 2019 and if you want to travel to Vietnam for the celebrations, now would be a good time to get everything booked so that you don’t miss out on all the fun!
Suggested next reading: The Unbelievable Mud Cave In Vietnam You Have To See To Believe