Vietnamese Lunar New Year - A special travel experience
Lunar New Year is celebrated by some Asian countries every year in late January – early February, depending on the lunar calendar. In Vietnam, the Lunar New Year Festival is called “Tết”, or “Tet”, and is the most important holiday for the Vietnamese. It is said that Tet is an all-in-one holiday as it combines the spirit of Thanks Giving, New Year, Christmas and everyone’s birthday. The official holiday is just in three days, however, Vietnamese people normally celebrate it for about a week with three phases: Pre-Tet, New Year’s Eve and some extra days to have more rest. Tet is the time for families to gather and stay close to each other, as well as to meet, celebrate and enjoy time with relatives and friends. What makes Tet becoming so remarkable and important is its spirit, atmosphere, the special traditions and customs, last but not least, the delicious homey food.
About two weeks prior to the Luna New Year’s Eve is the best time to feel the Tet’s atmosphere everywhere. People are busier since they have to finish their work before the holiday, yet they seem more excited at the same time as Tet comes closer. Streets and houses are cleaned and decorated with flowers, lights, music and posters. There is a Flower Walking Street in Saigon every year, opened for 3 or 4 days as an annual festive tradition of the city. You will find out that markets are always crowded since the mothers are hurriedly buying ingredients for traditional food. And food plays a big role in Tet! The food is so diverse and varied, from salad, fried, boiled, meat, vegetable to fruits. Some really common ones that you can find in every home in Tet are: different types of sticky rice cakes, meat stewed in coconut juice, pickled onions and daikon radish with shrimp, spring roll, Vietnamese traditional ham, red sticky rice, lotus root salad, soup with bamboo shoot, pork and mushroom, different types of jam (coconut, carrots, ginger…), fruits and various types of snacks. It is a good time for tourists to visit local markets, or even normal supermarkets, as you can find many new kinds of food and fresh ingredients all day. Tet is also the time when beverage consumption reaches its peak in Vietnam.
During the Tet Holiday, unusually, Vietnamese people do not go out a lot during the first 3 days of Lunar New Year like they do in almost other holidays, even in Christmas. Tourists in big cities probably have a shock as the streets are not as crowded as they are everyday, and people look much more relaxed. New Year’s Eve and the first three days of the New Year are basically time for families, close friends and relatives. If you are staying or visiting Vietnam during this holiday, you should be aware that almost every place is closed for probably the first two days of Lunar New Year; after that the supermarkets, markets, restaurants and banks will be opened again. These days, they tend to open also on the first or second day of New Year because the rise tourists coming to Vietnam during Tet holiday. For the rest of the holiday, people just rest and enjoy their time! Young people hang out a lot together for all day long, having coffee time, playing cards, eating, visiting each other in groups, and partying to celebrate the New Year.
As the tourists come to Vietnam more often in the last decades, there is an adaptation to make Tet holiday become more friendly and exciting to foreigners. There will be firework on New Year’s Eve, couple of concerts and performances, fairs where you can hang out with friends to know more about the country’s customs. If you have Vietnamese friends/colleagues, you can ask them to come visit, learn about the traditions and enjoy the food. Through the traditions, you will learn quite a lot about Vietnamese history, or the origin of food. In Saigon, when you hang out during Tet, you can say “Chuc mung nam moi!” – “Happy New Year!” to people and you will get smiling greetings. Besides, you can be relaxed and spend time to explore the special atmosphere and smell of Tet. It is quite rare that the city is not packed with vehicles and people, as well as people are really relaxed like they are during Tet. The festival is not only extraordinary to Vietnamese but also to foreigners as we welcome you and you can have spectacular unique experience. So, make sure you grab the chance to explore this fantastic holiday at least once. Also make sure to enjoy the food when you are in Vietnam, the country’s cuisine is just great!