There is no doubt that Tet Festival (Vietnamese New Year) is the biggest festival in Vietnam. During this celebration, the country is filled with colorful flowers, lights and decorations which bring Tet atmosphere to Vietnamese people. The government is responsible for making the streets, public places as stunning as possible. Staffs decorate offices, restaurants, shopping centers, coffee shops, hotels beautifully. Poor or rich people, adults or children, Vietnamese people or expats decorate their houses before the Lunar New Year’s Eve. Decoration items are abundant at supermarkets, markets, decoration stores in the country. The followings are Top 10 Decorations at Vietnamese Tet Festival.
1. Flowers, plants and trees
Lots of researchers have tried to explain why a large percentage of people in the world love flowers. Flowers, plants and trees are must things at Tet Festival because they give a new life to your place. Fresh flowers add colors and sweet smells to the place while plants and trees usually make the place green. Artificial flowers are choices of many people because they can be used many times and there is no need to take care of them.
The most favorite flowers include golden apricot blossoms (Hoa mai) in South Vietnam, peach blossoms (Hoa đào) in North Vietnam. These flowers represent happiness, luckiness and wealth. Artificial golden apricot blossoms and peach blossoms are popular because fresh flowers last about a week and the cost of fresh branches and trees with blossoms is rather high. Branches with flowers are arranged in high vases on ancestral altars and tables while trees that are full of apricot flowers or peach flowers are arranged in living rooms or outside houses. The branches and trees are usually decorated with decorative strings and red pockets which will be mentioned later.
Orchids are considered elegant flowers in Vietnam. They have good meanings and symbolize luckiness. Phalaenopsis (Lan hồ điệp) is one of the most expensive, beautiful and favorite orchids used to decorate houses and other places at Tet festival. Most of the Vietnamese like to arrange pots of Phalaenopsis in their houses, some people prefer artificial Phalaenopsis.
Tagetes (Hoa vạn thọ) literally meaning “longevity flower” is also one of the most popular flowers thanks to its good meaning, pretty yellow or orange color. The flower is the symbol of longevity and health.
Chrysanthemum morifolium (Cúc mâm xôi) literally meaning “tray of steamed sticky rice daisy” is usually in yellow color – a favorite color at Tet festival. It represents the abundance in food and money.
Dracaena fragrans (Thiết mộc lan or Phát tài) literally means “be prosperous” represent prosperity.
Some trees such as kumquat trees (Cây tắc) have countless yellow or orange fruits which represent the abundance in food and money.
Ardisia crenata (Kim ngân lượng) having red fruits representing good fortunes and five-petal leaves representing the Five Element (Ngũ Hành).
Golden tree with coin leaves or sycee leaves representing wealth and prosperity.
*Note: There are no Tagete, Chrysanthemum morifolium, Dracaena fragrans, Ardisia crenata.
Read more about Top Flowers and Plants at Tet festival.
Lanterns are wonderful decoration items not only at Tet festival but many other celebrations in Vietnam and Asian countries. Paper, plastic and fabric lanterns in different colors are sold popularly. The most favorite one is red fabric lantern with meaningful characters and images. Two lanterns or two lines of these lanterns are good choices.
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3. Parallel Sentences
Parallel sentences (Câu đối) are an important feature of the Vietnamese rich culture, they could not be missed at the biggest festival of the country. Red fabric parallel sentences with golden characters or Paper parallel sentences with black handwriting characters (usually calligraphy characters) are easily found at decoration stores. The second choice is highly recommended.
4. Red Pockets
Lovely Red pocket (Red envelope, Bao lì xì) – a must at Vietnamese New Year is not only presented to children by adults but also used to decorate golden apricot trees, peach apricot trees, kumquat trees. Hanging lines of red pockets around houses is a brilliant way to make the house great. Although the modern red pocket is designed with various patterns and colors, the traditional red color is the most favorite.
5. Tray of Five Fruits
The decoration of any house can not be completed without arranging a Tray of five fruits (Mâm ngũ quả). It must be listed as one of the Top 10 Decorations at the Vietnamese Tet festival. Each fruit or each color of the tray has a good meaning. Traditionally, five fruits are corresponding to Five Elements. In South Vietnam, they do not arrange banana which means “fall”, orange which means “resignation”. The fruits for the tray are different in South, North and Central Vietnam. Papaya, mango, coconut, soursop, common fig fruit are usually arranged on the Tray of five fruits in South Vietnam. Read more…
Watermelons, melons, pomelos, mangoes, coconut fruits, Buddha’s hand fruits with meaningful words on them, sycee or bottle-gourd-shaped pomelos and melons represent happiness, luckiness, wealth and health. So that they are usually arrange in Vietnamese houses at Tet.
6. Statues and Fengshui items
A statue of Sanxing who are Fu, Lu, and Shou – Gods of the three stars (Phúc Lộc Thọ) or Fenshui items definitely bring wealth, prosperity and longevity to everybody in your house. A statue of the Vietnamese zodiac sign of the lunar year or a couple of carps is great decoration. For example, you can arrange statues of pig made of marble, ceramic or gilded at some corners in your house.
7. Decorative Strings
Cute strings of golden characters, imitating coins, sycees, lanterns, parallel sentences, made of plastic or metal are usually used to hang in front of houses, on gate pillars or on interior walls. They also are able to make the trees more colorful. Vietnamese fireworks remind about Tet festival in the past.
Wall stickers can not be missed to make houses nice looking, they can be pasted on doors and walls. Certainly, there is a wide range of Tet stickers for your choice. Recommended stickers include golden apricot or peach apricot branches, two carps, lanterns, two children with parallel sentences, combo representing activities at Tet festival.
9. Square and Cylindric Sticky Rice Cake, Watermelon
Vietnamese people usually describe their Tet as “Bánh chưng xanh, dưa hấu đỏ” (Green square sticky rice cake, red watermelon). A plate of the traditional Vietnamese cakes and a watermelon is enough for Tet of poor people. In South and Central Vietnam, they make, arrange and eat Cylindric sticky rice (Bánh tét) instead of the square version (Bánh chưng). The watermelon should be round, plumpy and shinning and decorated with a square sticker. In recent, farmers grow watermelons, pomelos, Buddha’s hand fruits with characters, sycee or coin and sell them at higher prices than normal ones.
Nowadays, they also arrange coconuts, pomelos, melons, Buddha’s hand fruits. The fruits with meaningful words or fruits in shapes of sycees or bottle gourds have become favorite fruits to decorate houses in Vietnam.
Similar to Western people, Vietnamese has used lights to turn the places fascinating. You feel free to design and decorate the house with lights. Led lighting strings in various colors are often used to decorate the trees.
Where to buy Top 10 Decorations at Vietnamese Tet Festival?
Three weeks before the Lunar New Year’s Eve, you can see Tet decorations everywhere in the country. In big cities and Hanoi capital, you can go to supermarkets to find your favorite items. In Ho Chi Minh City, Hai Thuong Lan Ong Decoration Street in Saigon China Town has dozens of stores selling thousands of decoration items for Tet at wholesale. Prices are lower than prices at supermarkets. It is better to go there with local friends who help you to communicate with local vendors and negotiate prices. You can find different kinds of flowers, trees and plants at Tet Flower Markets in Saigon.