Lunar New Year or Vietnamese New Year or Tet Holiday or Tet is the most important holiday in Vietnam. There are many customs related to the Lunar New Year. One of them is the Custom of Erecting New Year Tree (Vietnamese: Tục Dựng Nêu). In spite of not being as popular as before, it is still remembered on the occasion that Tet comes, Spring returns.
MEANING OF ERECTING NEW YEAR TREE
Besides the yang realm that human beings live, there is the yin realm that souls live. There are some evil souls called demons. The demons always manage to harm people, so people have ways to prevent that thing. To have peace in Tet Holiday, Vietnamese people erect the New Year Trees in front of the houses.
The New Year Tree (Vietnamese: Cây Nêu) is a bamboo tree with a length of about 5m or 6m, there are many things put on the top of the tree (depending on the local) such as a bag of betel leaves with quicklime and areca nuts, some tobacco, an amulet, and a red piece of cloth with the length of about 50cm, the width of about 20cm.
LEGEND OF NEW YEAR TREE
Once upon a time devils occupied whole the country. Human beings were just employees and after each harvest, they left most rice for the devils. The greed of the devils did not have the bottom. One day they produced the rule “eating tops, giving roots”. That year human beings only had stubbles.
The Buddha saw so, pitied and gave advice. The Buddha told human beings to grow sweet potatoes. Therefore, after the harvest the devils only received trunks and leaves, the human beings received bulbs. In spite of being very angry, the devils could not speak anything.
Until the next crop, the devils produced the rule “eating roots, giving tops”. The Buddha told human beings to grow rice again. The devils lost again and got angrier.
On the next crop, the devils produce the rule “eating both roots and tops”. The Buddha gave human beings lots of corn seeds to sow everywhere. After the harvest, the devils did not get anything, human beings got lots of corn.
Finally, the devils decided to force human beings to have to return all fields, not getting to do anymore.
The Buddha told human beings to buy a small piece of land of the devils. It was as large as the shade of the monk’s coat hanging on the top of a bamboo tree. They saw money, desired and agreed to sell the land. The Buddha used the sorcery to make the shade cover whole land. The devils lost the land, so they ran to the eastern sea.
Because of losing the land, the devils gathered soldiers to rob it again. They lost this battle because human beings used dog blood, garlic, lime to fight. Before returned the eastern sea, the devils had asked the Buddha for following them to go into the mainland to visit the tombs of the ancestor every year. The Buddha felt pity, so he agreed. Therefore, every year, on Tet occasion the devils go into the mainland. The human beings follow the former way, setting up a New Year Tree where they live so that the devils remember that this place has an owner.
The Vietnamese fairy tale explains the reason why people must set up the New Year Tree at Tet. The tale contains the Buddhist philosophy of cause and effect and also the wish of workers.
Every year, on December 23th (in North of Vietnam) or December 30th (in South of Vietnam), each family erects a New Year Tree in front of the house to prevent the fierce devils. The trees are pulled down on January 7th of the lunar calendar. The offerings to offer in ceremonies erecting and lowering the New Year Tree include incense, lamp, flowers, tea, alcohol, and 1 boiled rooster. Subject to offer is the Earth God.
Read more about 3 Tet Days in Vietnam