Open new house celebration custom (or housewarming party, tân gia) is one of the beautiful Vietnamese customs which still remain until today. It is much more than a housewarming party which is popular in other countries. On this day, the Vietnamese host (owner of the new house) not only serves a feast to his guests who come to share the joy with him but also performs traditional rituals in order to ask Gods and ancestors to support the new house and his family. Let’s learn about this Vietnamese tradition as well as top Open new house gifts.
History and meaning of Open new house celebration custom (Tân gia)
Vietnamese people usually say: “Tậu trâu, cưới vợ, làm nhà. Cả ba việc đấy thật là khó thay. (Buy buffalo, get married, build house. The three tasks are difficult.)”. They also say: “An cư lạc nghiệp (Settle down build career)”. Building a house is one of the top three important things to do in the life of a Vietnamese person. So finishing a new house (or buying a house) is one of the most wonderful things.
Vietnamese people are happy to share the joy with other people including relatives, friends, neighbors and others by inviting them to the Open new house celebrations which are similar to housewarming parties in many countries. The host introduces to guests the location, structure, materials, interior and exterior designs of the new house. The host also performs some rituals in order to express his thanks to Gods, Buddhas, ancestors who supported him to build the house successfully. The ceremony brings good luck, happiness and wealth to the house, and chase off demons.
The guests know where the house is and come back in the future, learn about the new house and share the joy with the host.
What does new house mean?
Traditionally, new house means a newly built house. In recent, new house refers to not only newly built houses but also new apartments, old houses which have been bought by new owners and sometimes restored and look like new. Vietnamese people usually celebrate the Open new house celebration (housewarming party) when they move to new houses.
Who is invited to Open new house celebration?
The host usually invites family members, relatives, friends, partners, neighbors, architects, workers, engineers and managers who contributed to building the houses or real estate salesmen.
What to do on Open new house celebration?
- Hold Open new house ceremony (Lễ nhập trạch).
- Guests are invited to see the new house and enjoy a feast.
- Guests should bring gifts and give best wishes to the host.
Open new house ceremony (Lễ nhập trạch)
Housewarming parties in some countries do not include ceremonies. In Vietnam, performing necessary rituals is a must. Before building the house, the host did some rituals and ask Gods including God of Soil and ground, Buddhas, ancestors and spirits of the dead in the area to support him. It is time to express his gratitude to them by offering them foods, drink and incenses. The purposes of Lễ nhập trạch include appearing before (ra mắt) the Gods managing the land and the house, introducing the new house to ancestors, and ask them to protect the house.
Traditional offerings are divided into three trays (mâm), one tray in the middle of the house, one is for offering God of wealth, one is for offering Kitchen gods. Each tray has enough main dishes, fruits, cakes, steamed sticky rice, sticky rice dumplings with ginger syrup, incenses, etc. The trays are too expensive and complex. Later, they usually prepare three trays including Five-fruit tray, Flower and incense tray and Wine and meat tray. An example of the offerings is as below:
- Five-fruit tray consists of five kinds of fruits which should be fresh, bright, not rotten or mushy.
- Flower and incense tray consists of flowers (Texas bluebells, Gerberas), kerosine lamp (candles), wild betel leaves with slaked lime paste, areca nuts, joss papers, agarwood, three plates (jars) of salt and rice, water, tea, candies, cakes.
- Wine and meat tray consists of boiled whole chicken, a piece of roasted pork or a roasted whole suckling pig, wine, tea, one set of three bears including one crab, one shrimp, one boiled egg, eight bowls of sticky rice dumplings with ginger syrup, eight bowls (or plates) of steamed sticky rice, eight plain rice congee (or chicken congee).
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Items used for the ceremony
A charcoal (gas) stove is placed in front of the main door. Lucky items include mats or mattresses, rice, salt, gold, money. Family members bring these lucky items when they pass the stove and enter the house through the main door.
- Ceremony order
- Burn the stove and put it in front of the main door.
- The head of the family steps over the stove and passes the main door. He should take the first step with his right leg when he enters the house. He should hold ancestral altars and an incense burner.
- Other members of the family step over the stove, bring other meditation tools, mats (or mattresses), stoves and lucky items. No one enters the house empty-handed.
- Open all doors and windows, turn on all lights, water taps, and stoves in order to “wake up the house”, make it ventilated and bright.
- The family arranges ancestral altars, God of Soil and Ground and God of Wealth altar.
- Then arrange offerings on the table in the middle of the living room where there are ancestral altars. The offerings should face the lucky direction.
- The representative who is one of the members of the family burns incenses and reads “văn khấn” including Gods “văn khấn” and ancestors “văn khấn”.
- When waiting for the incenses to burn completely into ashes, the family members turn on the stove, boil water for 5-7 minutes, brew tea which is offered to Gods and ancestors and served to guests. Cooking water means “khai hỏa”, literally meaning open fire, creating vitality.
- Burn joss papers (“Hóa vàng”) into ashes, pour wine over the ashes.
- Three plates (jars) of salt and rice, which represent the abundance, are placed in the kitchen.
- Scatter salt and rice around the house and yard.
Do and Don’t when holding Open new house ceremony
- Avoid bad dates and times.
- The host and his family should bring furniture and others into the house themselves.
- The person who enters the new house should be the head of the family. He brings the ancestral tablets. Then other family members follow him, they should bring something lucky.
- Pray for Gods first, then pray for ancestors.
- Move the house in the morning but not at night.
- No argument or crying when moving to the new house.
- Pregnant women do not attend the ceremony.
- After entering the new house, open all doors and windows, turn on all lights, water taps, and stoves.
- The kitchen and ancestral altar should be finished before the ceremony.
- “Xông nhà” in order to drive away demons, ghosts and bad luck by burning incenses, agarwood.
- If the host moves to the new house on the 1st or 15th day of a lunar month, he and his wife should not make love.
How to choose the date of Open new house ceremony
In some countries, the hosts choose the date of housewarming parties themselves. In Vietnam, they have experienced people or fortune-tellers choose lucky dates and time to start the ceremony. There are three ways to choose the dates:
- Good date and time when the Earth and the Sky meet;
- Good date and time for the owner of the house;
- According to the direction of the house;
- Avoid “thọ tử” (dead) days (5th, 14th, 23th, 27th days), “tam nương sát” days (3rd Jul, 13th Aug, 22th Jul), and “dương công kỵ” (13th Jan, 11th Feb, 9th Mar, 7th Apr, 5th May, 3rd Jun, 29th Jul, 25th Sep, 23rd Oct, 21st Nov, 19th Dec) in the lunar calendar.
What to serve/eat at a housewarming party in Vietnam?
Besides steamed sticky rice, sticky rice dumplings with ginger syrup, roasted pork, boiled chicken and congee, the host also prepares more starters, main dishes and desserts. The foods depend on local preferences and products. In the past, men usually drink sweet rice. In recent, they can drink beer and other alcoholic drinks.
Top 5+ housewarming gifts in Vietnam
Bread, seeds, new brooms can bring good luck to owners of the new house. Wines, electric home appliances, dinnerware, paintings, decor items are top gifts to bring to an Open new house celebration. Paintings depicting seven horses or horse decors lead to more success and power in the lives of the host and the family members.
Open New House Celebration Customs in summary
Open New House Celebration customs are is a beautiful part of Vietnamese culture. This is the chance for Vietnamese people show their respects and thanks to ancestors and Gods who support them to have good lives, prosperities and luckiness through ceremonies. On the day, they introduce the new house – their pride to relatives, friends, partners who share the happiness with them. What is better than gathering, enjoy traditional Vietnamese foods and talk to each other?