Activities During Vietnamese New Year – Part 2
Tet – the shortened form of Tet Nguyen Dan (Tet Festival or Vietnamese New Year) is the biggest most important annual celebration in Vietnam. Although Vietnamese New Year gets the beginning marked with the first day in the lunar year, its preparation starts about one month before that. First three days on the lunar calendar are considered as Tet days, but Vietnamese people still have many activities until the end of January on the lunar calendar. The followings are traditional activities during the Vietnamese New Year.
Some months before Tet, flower growers have grown flowers and ornamental plants for Tet which will be sold at flower markets all around the country a week before New Year’s Eve. There is a wide range of colorful flowers with good meanings such as apricot blossom in South Vietnam and peach blossom symbolizing luckiness and longevity, marigold symbolizing living as long as possible. Kumquat trees with hundreds of yellow kumquats on it with a wish of making lots of money. There are also many other kinds of nice flowers such as chrysanthemum, gladiolus, air plant…
Flower farmer is watering colorful flowers for Tet in her garden
Every year since the beginning of the lunar twelfth month, Vietnamese people of all ages have been looking forward to the Vietnamese New Year. There are dozens of activities done before Tet such as preparing foods for Tet, cleaning tombs, decorating houses, saying goodbye to Kitchen God, buying flowers and plants at Tet flower markets…
Before Tet, everybody spends time making cakes, candies, dried fruit candies which couldn’t be missed at the Tet festival. Bakeries and candy factories also work hard to provide enormous foods for Tet. In Vietnam, these sweets are served to people visiting the host on Tet days. They also gift sweets to each other as a good luck gift. In South Vietnam, they make Banh Tet (Cylindrical Glutinous Cake) from glutinous rice and banana or mung bean and pork belly. In North Vietnam, they make Banh Chung (Square Glutinous Cake) from glutinous rice, mung bean and pork belly. Many Vietnamese family cook cakes themselves and all family members have a chance to gather around the fire for about 4-8 hours to cook the cakes. Each member of a family takes a role in the process making dried fruit candies. Grandmother is the main chef, mother does the hardest work – stirring fruits with sugar, father dries stirred fruits and children take care of them from pets. This may be one of the warmest times in any Vietnamese person’s life. Before 1975, because traffic conditions and businesses were limited, most of the households made cakes and candies themselves. In the countryside, people could hear the sound of the pestles which were from households making cake at night. In front of the houses, there were hundreds of rice paper cakes dried on sheets made from water coconut leaves. The sound of firecrackers was sometimes lightened and create a Tet atmosphere for everyone.
A wide range of Dried Fruit Candies for Tet
A family is making Square Glutinous Rice Cake at Tet
Rice paper is dried under the sun on sheets made from water coconut leaves
From the tenth to the twenty-fifth, every family go to clean tombs of death relatives. Vietnamese people think “song cai nha, chet cai mo”. This expression means when people are alive, the most necessary living condition is a house and when people are dead, the most necessary condition for resting is a tomb. So that they also would like to clean the “house” for beloved death relatives.
On the twenty-third of the twelfth, Vietnamese people hold the ceremony of saying goodbye to Ong Tao or Kitchen God to the paradise. In fact, there are three kitchen gods who are 2 husbands and one wife in a family. They are responsible for looking for housework for each household. They also examine whole things of family and every year ride carps flying back the paradise to report to the king of heaven. The offering of the ceremony in North Vietnam consists of three sets of clothes for Ong Tao made of paper, three carps, rice, meat, fruit… The offerings in South Vietnam are more simple, only flowers, fruit, cakes and jam.
Offerings at Tet Ong Tao
From the twentieth to the thirtieth December on the lunar calendar, flower markets are always all over the country are busy and crowded with people coming to see and buy beautiful and meaningful flowers and plants for Tet. In Ho Chi Minh, there are three famous and the biggest flower markets. Those are Ho Thi Ky Flower Market, Dam Sen Flower Market and Hau Giang Flower Market. Some of these flower markets even never sleep, especially they are busiest from midnight to early morning. In Hanoi, Tay Tuu, Me Linh, Quang Ba, Lac Long Quan, Hang Luoc, Hoang Hoa Tham flower markets are 6 biggest and the most famous flower markets. The flowers here come from Sapa, Dalat, Southwest of Vietnam and other countries. At Tet flower markets in South Vietnam, apricot blossom is a must. And in North Vietnam, peach blossom trees and branches – the symbol of Tet is the most popular goods. Hundred-year-old apricot blossom trees/ peach blossom trees are sold at too high price. Vietnamese people love to go for a walk in a flower market to experience spring (Tet) atmosphere coming back, take photos or choose the nicest flowerpots for their families.
Tet flower market with colorful flowers, trees and plants