Vietnamese New Year - Tet

Considered the first day of spring and most important of national holidays in Vietnam, Tet is the occasion for Vietnamese to express their respect and remembrance for their ancestors as well as welcoming the New Year with their beloved family members

Peach flower - peaceful and elegant

Tết: Vietnamese New Year - Tet Nguyen Dan or Tet for short, is considered the biggest and most popular festival of the year in Vietnam. Celebrated on the first day of the first month in Lunar Calendar, Tet’s celebration is the longest holiday which may last up to seven to nine days. Vietnamese New Year in 2019 will last from 2 -10 Feb 2019.


Vietnamese is a tonal language, making pronunciation a challenge for English speakers. Regardless, locals will understand your attempts through context. You can wish people a happy new year in Vietnamese by telling them "CHUC MUNG NAM MOI"

An Introduction to Vietnamese New Year

Considered the first day of spring and most important of national holidays in Vietnam, Tet is the occasion for Vietnamese to express their respect and remembrance for their ancestors as well as welcoming the New Year with their beloved family members. Moreover, in the past, Tet was essential as it provided one of few long breaks during the agricultural year, which was held between the harvesting of the crops and the sowing of the next ones. Every family will get together to have big meals, decorate Tet trees and eat Tet food.

Although Tet can be a very exciting time to travel in Vietnam, it's also the busiest time of the year to be there. Millions of people will be traveling through the country to share reunions with friends and family. The holiday will certainly have an impact on your trip plans.

Tet is seen as a chance for a fresh start. Debts are settled, old grievances are forgiven, and houses are cleaned of clutter — all to set the stage for attracting as much luck and good fortune as possible in the upcoming year.


Because many shops and businesses will be closed during the actual Tet holiday, people rush out in the weeks prior to take care of preparations. They purchase gifts, groceries, and new clothing. Many meals will need to be cooked for family reunions. Markets and shopping areas become busier and busier.

Locals often become more congenial and outgoing during Tet. Spirits lift, and the atmosphere becomes optimistic. A greater focus is put on the ability to invite good fortune into homes and businesses in the upcoming year. Whatever happens on the first day of the new year is thought to set the pace for the rest of the year. Superstition abounds!

For travelers in Vietnam, Tet is a great time to see Vietnamese traditions, games, and revelry. Public stages are set up throughout the country with free cultural shows, music, and entertainment.

Vietnamese New Year Traditions

Since Tet occupies an important role in Vietnamese’s religious beliefs, Vietnamese will begin their preparations well in advance of the upcoming New Year. In an effort to get rid of the bad luck of the old year, people will spend a few days cleaning their homes, polishing every utensil, or even repaint and decorate the house with kumquat tree, branches of peach blossom, and many other colorful flowers. The ancestral altar is especially taken care of, with careful decoration of five kinds of fruits and votive papers, along with many religious rituals. Everybody, especially children, buy new clothes and shoes to wear on the first days of New Year. People also try to pay all their pending debts and resolve all the arguments among colleagues, friends or members of family.

Kumquat Tree

Vietnamese believe that the color of red and yellow will bring good fortune, which may explain why these colors can be seen everywhere in Lunar New Year. People consider what they do on the dawn of Tet will determine their fate for the whole year, hence people always smile and behave as nice as they can in the hope for a better year. Besides, gifts are exchanged between family members and friends and relatives, while children receive lucky money kept in red envelope.

Tet is typically celebrated for three days with some traditions observed for up to a week. The first day of Tet is usually spent with immediate family, the second day is for visiting friends, and the third day is dedicated to teachers and visiting temples.

Because the principle goal is to attract good fortune for the new year, you shouldn't sweep during Tet because you could inadvertently sweep away new luck. The same goes for any cutting: don't cut your hair or fingernails during the holiday!

One of the most important traditions observed during Tet is the emphasis put on who is the first to enter a house in the new year. The first person brings the luck (good or bad) for the year! The head of the house — or someone considered successful — leaves and returns a few minutes after midnight just to ensure they are the first to come in.

The general process is as follow (all dates quoted in lunar calendar):
  1. Ông Công, Ông Táo Day (Kitchen God day) - December 23rd
  2. Wrapping Chung cake - December 26-28th
  3. Family reunion and Tất niên - December 30th
  4. Giao thừa - New Year's Eve: including praying sessions to God and Ancestors, Xông đất  (First visit to a family in the new year)
  5. First three days of the new year:
  6. The first day of Tet is usually spent with immediate family, the second day is for visiting friends, and the third day is dedicated to teachers and visiting temples.
  7. Visit relatives, friends and neighbours: can take place from January 3rd - 5th
  8. Hóa vàng - burn the offerings near Tet's end for ancestors: From January 3th
  9. Reopen business: usually owners pick a good date that matches their age
  10. Tết Nguyên Tiêu: January 15th

Tet is based on the lunisolar calendar. The date changes annually for Lunar New Year, but it usually falls in late January or early February.

Dates for Tet in Vietnam:
  • In 2010, Tet is on February 14th, Year of the Tiger
  • In 2011, Tet is on February 03th, Year of the Cat
  • In 2012, Tet is on January 23th, Year of the Dragon
  • In 2013, Tet is on February 10th, Year of the Snake
  • In 2014, Tet is on January 31st, Year of the Horse
  • In 2015, Tet is on February 19th, Year of the Goat
  • In 2016, Tet is on February 8th, Year of the Monkey
  • In 2017, Tet is on January 28th, Year of the Cock / Rooster
  • In 2018, Tet is on February 16th, Year of the Dog
  • In 2019, Tet is on February 05th, Year of the Pig
  • In 2020, Tet is on January 25th, Year of the Rat
  • In 2021, Tet is on January 25th, Year of the Buffalo / Ox


Tet holidays are the moments of happiness and family enjoy, therefore Vietnamese often dedicate the most beautiful words to their family and friends on this occasion. Here is the list of the most common New Year Wishes
  • I wish you a healthy new year
  • I wish you a wealthy new year
  • I wish that you will get promoted in the new year
  • I wish that the new year will bring health to all your family
  • New year, new triumphs
  • Eat more, grow rapidly (for children)
  • New lover will come in the new year (for single people)
  • Money influx is as strong as Da's river; expenditure is as little as dripping coffee

Still there are plenty of wishes that people send to each others in Tet holiday, this list is simply an overview. Use them and impress your friends this coming Tet!

Essential Foods for Tet holidays

Essential Foods for Tet holidays

Vietnamese people have a very good habit of saving, which are reflected by the regular meals – rice with a main dishes (meat or fish/shrimp), a vegetable food and a bowl of soup. However, during Tet holiday, when Vietnamese let themselves taste more protein-rich and sophisticatedly made dishes. The following food is often consumed during Tet; some are particular to Tet and often associated with the grand celebration:

Banh Chung/ Banh Tet: Banh Chung (steamed square cake) and its Southern variety called Banh Tet - is unique to Vietnam's Tet holiday, though many other countries celebrate this holiday as well. Banh Chung is a food made from glutinous rice, mung bean and pork, added with many other ingredients. Banh Chung is covered by green leaves (usually banana leaves) and symbolizes the Earth, invented by the prince Lang Lieu from Hung King dynasty. Besides traditional reason, Banh Chung is chosen as the main food for Tet holiday because of it can last long for days in the severe weather of Vietnam

Banh Chung
Bánh Chưng needs to be carefully boiled for ten to twelve hours

Mứt - Candied fruits: Mut Tet (Tet jam) is not a food to serve in a meal during Tet holiday, but more like a snack to welcome guests in this special period. Mut is always kept in beautiful boxes and placed at the table in the living room, and it is the main food for the owners and guests to taste when they’re talking, enjoyed over a cup of tea. Unlike Western jam, which is usually in liquid form and served with bread, "Vietnamese jam" is mainly in dry form, usually dried fruits and some kind of seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, watermelon seeds). This once-in-year mix of snack is very large in variety, with so many tastes: ginger, carrot, coconut, pineapple, pumpkin, lotus seed, star fruit, sweet potato. Nowadays, cake and sweet are slowly replacing jam in Tet period, but many people still love the taste this unique food – an angle of Vietnamese culture.

Vietnamese Pickled Onions (Hanh Muoi): As much as a meat taste-countering ingredient, Vietnamese pickled onions also serve as a natural medicine for better digestion after high protein meals. The typical aromatic, crispy and sour taste of pickled onions going with fat jellied meat and tasty sticky rice cake awakens the Tet atmosphere in every family dinner.

Boiled chicken - Thịt Gà: Thit ga (boiled or steamed chicken) plays an important role in Tet holiday cuisine because all the tribute meals to the ancestors must contain a boiled chicken, whole or chopped. Chicken meat in Tet meals are various in forms: usually chicken are boiled and sliced, but sometimes people can place the whole chicken in a plate, or nowadays some families use roasted or fired chicken to replace the original boiled ones. Chicken meat is served with Xoi (sticky rice) and Banh Chung, and become one of the most popular main dishes in Tet holidays. Boiled chicken are always go with sliced lemon leaves and salt-and-pepper sauce, as a tradition. Chicken (especially bones, legs and heads) can be used to prepare the broths for other soups.

Vietnamese sausage - giò chả: Gio Cha (Vietnamese ham/sausage) is another traditional food in Tet holiday, and usually served with Xoi (sticky rice) and Banh Chung. Gio is different from Cha since Gio is boiled and Cha is deep-fried. Vietnamese people make Gio from lean meat, added fish sauce and covered by leaves then boiled for hours. Cha is also made of lean pork and ingredients, but Cha is not wrapped by leaves and boiled but deep-fried in oil. Cha just survive for some days when Gio can last for month due to its covers. There are many kind of Gio, categorized by its origins: Gio Lua (made from pork), Gio Ga (made from chicken), Gio Bo (made from beef). All these types are used not only in Tet holidays but also over the year.

Xôi Gấc - Red Sticky Rice: Xoi (Sticky rice) is also a very important part of Tet holiday in Vietnam, since the meals to worship the ancestors can not missing this dish. Moreover, along with Banh Chung, xoi is the main staple foods for Tet holiday. Xoi in Tet holidays can be seen in many forms: Xoi Lac (sticky rice with peanuts), Xoi Do Xanh (sticky rice with mung bean), Xoi Gac (sticky rice with special “gac” fruit). Among these types, xoi gac is favorite the most by people because of its special red color – symbolizes the luck and new achievement for the New Year. Xoi is usually served with Gio Cha or boiled chicken in Tet meals. Sometimes it can be served with Che (sweet soup) like a dessert.

Mung Bean Pudding - Vietnamese Che Kho: Mung bean pudding is made from dried mung bean, sugar, grapefruit extract and cardamom following a secret portion that only skillful and experienced cookers know and that is the reason why ancient mothers always took this dish to test the ingenuity of their future daughter.

Roasted nuts and seeds: During Tet, every family in Vietnam prepares a special tray of snack to offer guests, containing a variety candies, biscuits, jam, fruits; and roasted nuts are indispensible components of the tray. Vietnamese people eat roasted nuts with the main purpose to create a cheerful and friendly environment in which the hosts and the guests enjoy nuts together.


Tet holidays are the days of relaxation, happiness and joy. And similar to pine tree for Christmas holiday in the West, Vietnamese also use many kinds of flowers and plants to decorate their house in this special period. Some names can be listed out: Chrysanths, marigold, Mao Ga flower, paperwhite flower, lavender, to name a few. Some people nowadays even use orchid and rose, although this is not yet popular. And above all, there are 3 kinds of plants that can not be missing in Tet holidays: peach flower, ochna integerrima and marumi kumquat.
Peach flower and marumi kumquat are familiar in the North while South people prefer ochna itegerrima for Tet holidays. Another reason is the characteristics of the plants. While marumi kumquat and peach trees grow well in cold weather, ochna integerrima just can survive in tropical lands with lots of sunshine.


Tet has a very special attached meaning to all Vietnamese. It is the time for everybody to come back to their hometown, gathering with family, visiting relatives and having a good relaxing time after a hard-working year. If you have the opportunity to visit Vietnam during Tet holiday, make sure you join this festive and happy moments of Vietnamese!

Many Vietnamese people return to their home villages and families during Tet; transportation becomes filled up in the days before and after the holiday. Plan extra time if you'll be wanting to move around the country.

Many Vietnamese families take advantage of the national holiday by traveling to tourist areas to celebrate and enjoy time away from work.

If you plan to visit Vietnam during the Tet Holiday, it is strongly advised that you apply for a visa as soon as possible as the embassy offices may close during the holiday time above.


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