Old Quarter of Hanoi at Tet
Old Quarter of Hanoi at Tet

Vietnamese Tet

 When the peach blossoms make the winter in northern Vietnam warmer and the apricot flowers make the sunshines in the central region and southern Vietnam brighter, the Vietnamese would make the last efforts wrapping up everything and rush home to celebrate Tet. The Vietnamese People, being dead or alive, from all regions of the country, all corners on earth, all walks of life,  and even in the afterlife would rush home in a real hurry for Tet.

 
Tet in the Old Quarter of Hanoi Vietnam
Tet in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, Vietnam

There are a lot of interpretations related to the word “Tet” in Vietnamese. Some would say it's a change in seasonal weather, some say it's lunar new year...Whatever it means, most Vietnamese wouldn't give it a care. For them, Tet is just Tet, which has nothing to do with interpretations! Tet means special celebrations at home, they have to be at home to celebrate it and they have to be with their family to feel it...Tet is something to be felt, words fail to do the job!

 New year trees in Hanoi Vietnam
The kumquats are the new year trees

Tet seems to gather up its own momentum and energy from the 23rd of the 12th month on the lunar calendar when the Vietnamese start burning off votive money and offerings, and release carp fish which are believed to carry the Gods Of Kitchens back to heaven to report affairs on Earth in the going-to-be-finished lunar year in the hope that the God of Heaven would grant them all with enough food and happiness in the coming lunar year.

 Tet in the Old Quarter of Hanoi Vietnam
Tet in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, Vietnam

Streets in Vietnam, be it in the countryside or cities, would be filled up with people rushing around carrying loads of goods, flowers, bonsai trees,...whatever people need to have for Tet celebrations. Flights are booked out, trains are booked out, buses are loaded with people and goods...In the countryside, villages start dancing the rhythms of Tet with flower blossoms, with noise of pestles pounding food for Tet, of kids celebrating fun time off from school, of smells of food and flowers permeating the air...In cities, traffic get more and more congested and jam-packed. Flowers and banner posters are everywhere to put on the town a cheery mood. Tet markets suddenly mushroom in all corners of town where people could find Tet gifts for their beloved ones...

 Tet in the Old Quarter of Hanoi Vietnam
Tet in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, Vietnam

Tet preparations come to a close on the last day of the 12th lunar month when people gather around at home for a family party bidding farewell to the old year. In cities, streets become less and less busy; shops, restaurants... start being closed. In the countryside, people would pay visits to deceased members of the family to invite them to come back home for Tet. In the evening of the last day of a lunar year, people go to night markets to get flowers, twigs of trees in the hope that they would bring along good lucks throughout the coming year...

 Tet in the Old Quarter of Hanoi Vietnam
Tet in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, Vietnam

From the moments of the first day of Tet, the first person that visits a family is thought to dictate the fate of the family for the whole year. If this visitor (who could be a family member) has the Earth Sign that is favorable, then the family is to enjoy good luck through the year and vice versa.

On the first day of Tet, streets are empty
On the first day of Tet, streets are free of traffic

The first meal of the new year is to toast everyone good luck throughout the year and then, family members exchange lucky money. Normally, the first day of the new year is for family conversations or for visits to close relatives only. The Vietnamese don't normally pay visits to neighbors or friends on the first day; streets are usually empty on the first day as people don't go out, all public places including shops, restaurants...are closed.

On the first day of Tet, streets are empty
The Old Quarter of Hanoi is quiet

The Vietnamese start coming out to visit friends, teachers, business partners... from the second day of Tet; pagodas and temples get busier with people coming to pray for good luck. People may open their shop or business for one day or even just half a day on a favorable day, which may vary from year to year, to get a lucky beginning for the year. No sales are needed for this special day, though.

On the first day of Tet, streets are empty
The "ladder street" has only ladders without anyone around

Tet celebrations draw to a close after the 3rd day. Families would have a farewell party to close Tet celebrations and to bid farewell to family members who may have to leave home to travel to a different city/country for work and bid farewell to the deceased members. After the farewell party, all votive money and offerings will be burnt off for the deceased and Tet officially come to a close. Tet may be finished, but the festive mood goes on as traditional festivals are held from one village to another and this goes on throughout the first month of the lunar year.

The Truc Bach Lake is as serene as ever on the first day of Tet
The Truc Bach Lake is as serene as ever on the first day of Tet

Tet is the special time of the year that the Vietnamese have family reunions, the only chance of the year that they feel to could meet their ancestors and the deceased family members altogether,  the only time of the year that they could be who they are surrounded by family and recall childhood memories, the only occasion that their mind is totally refreshed and reinvigorated... And Tet is a new beginning.

 Ho Chi Minh City during Tet
Traffic and street light on Dong Khoi Street (rue Catinat) of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) during Tet

The Vietnamese travel back home for Tet wherever they are to be charged with new energies. After Tet, the Vietnamese go back to work and back to the mundane world full of fresh energy. Tet heralds in change, which could be for the better or not. The Vietnamese are aware that life is full of adventures and Tet is the time for possibly new challenging ones. Being at home during Tet, they trust they'll have enough power to take on all new adventures of life!

 Ho Chi Minh City during Tet
Traffic and street light on Le Loi Street of Saigon during Tet

 

 Ho Chi Minh City during Tet
Traffic and street light on Le Loi Street of Saigon during Tet

 

 Ho Chi Minh City during Tet
Lighting before City Hall (People's Committee Building of Ho Chi Minh City) during Tet

 

 Ho Chi Minh City during Tet
Lighting before City Hall (People's Committee Building of Ho Chi Minh City) during Tet