Vietnamese New Year in a Nutshell
Wondering what to buy for TET gifts? Then this is for you! The Tet Festival rings in the new lunar year in Vietnam and is considered to be the most important holiday in the country. The Vietnamese celebrate it by visiting family members and performing Tet rituals from Vietnam’s ancient culture, which vary depending on the region. There are tons of Tet traditions and customs that you should read up on if you’re interested in the holiday.
Tet Holiday is an opportunity to express gratitude for having enough throughout the year, and also offers people the chance to make resolutions and work on improving themselves. It’s a time of celebration, with traditional Tet flowers and trees serving as the ornaments that make the season bright.
Vietnamese people wear new clothes for Tet and often gather at ancestral homes where they perform ancestral worship ceremonies.
And then, of course, there is the practice of giving gifts. Western countries generally have Christmas or another Winter holiday designated for giving gifts, but Vietnam has the Spring festival of Tet. Some traditional Tet gifts are symbolic of an auspicious future, while others are just plain fun or delicious.
In this guide, we’ll look at what makes a gift perfect for Tet Holiday and where you can find the best ones.
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Who Gives Tet Gifts?
In Vietnam’s ancient culture, people only gave gifts to those younger than themselves on Tet. These days, though, everybody gives gifts to everybody. Children and elderly people tend to receive even more Tet gifts than others, but no one is left out.
Giving Tet gifts is a traditional custom if you are visiting someone’s house during the holiday season. Be sure to have meaningful Tet gifts on hand to mark the occasion of the biggest festival of the year.
For recipients of a Tet gift, it is also polite to reciprocate with a meaningful gift of your own.
Meaningful Tet Gifts for Vietnamese New Year
What to buy others for Tet Holiday? Here are some popular suggestions to inspire you.
1. Flowers and Plants – Perfect gifts For Prosperity
Tet Holiday arrives in late January or early February, to coincide with the first lunar month, and the Tet Festival is thereby a celebration of renewal after the harshness of winter. Thus, fruits, flowers, and ornamental plants, symbols of life and prosperity, make meaningful Tet gifts.
Yellow or red color flowers are believed to be lucky colors. Other colors that are bright and vivid are acceptable too. Plants that best show off the traditional colors of Tet include chrysanthemum, peach and plum blossom, Marumi Kumquat in North Vietnam and the Yellow Apricot in South Vietnam.
It may be less practical to bring along many potted plants as you visit different households throughout the Tet holiday. Instead, you can give fruits and flowers, which will be seen as a meaningful Tet gift by any Vietnamese family.
2. Fruits – For a Sweet Start to the New Year
The ‘five fruit tray’ gift filled with 5 different fruits with striking colors is always a good idea. For business contacts, you may want to include imported fruits or flowers to show you value the relationship. For parents and friends, it is best to gift them their favorite kinds with your wish for their happiness and health.
You may want to keep the traditional Tet colors of red and yellow in mind with your fruit selection, too; lychee, rambutan, ripe starfruit, cherries, so ri, dragonfruit, red mangosteen, mangoes, Western lemons, and yellow or red apples are good ideas to include. Watermelon is also a traditional fruit for Tet.
Luckily, Vietnam is home to tons of exotic fruits that you’ve likely never seen before! Pay a visit to the fruit section of the local wet market and prepare to be overwhelmed by selection.
3. Liquor – Celebration in a Bottle
Locally-made liquor is another traditional gift at Tet. The most popular type of liquor to give is rice wine, which is made with ginseng or other Chinese herbs and is seen as a health booster. Local liquors made by fermenting fruits like bananas or apricots are also popular.
The organically-produced liquors are signs of prosperity. They’re usually enjoyed during a gathering and gives the drinkers a feeling of warmth and togetherness, making it one of the most meaningful Tet gifts.
Nowadays, the Vietnamese also opt to gift European-style red or white wines and even distilled spirits such as vodka or whiskey. If you are coming from abroad, bring in foreign bottles for Tet gifts. It will be seen as more special and thoughtful. Otherwise, if you are in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, international brands of alcohol or artisinal Vietnamese-made liquors are easy to find and highly appreciated.
Add a good luck card to your wine hamper, and it will make a great gift for any house you will be visiting this Tet holiday. When visiting families, it’s nice to gift soft drinks for kids along with alcohol for the parents.
4. Tea and Sweet Treats – Great Gifts For Kids And Families
Tea is always a good gift for any occasion in Vietnam, and is particularly a family-friendly gift, as parents and children can all enjoy it together.
Tea is considered one of the most meaningful Tet gifts, as it is a symbol of health and longevity. Giving someone tea shows that you are grateful for them and that you care about their wellbeing. You may wish to select traditional teas from the Vietnamese Thai Nguyen tea region or imported teas with special flavours.
Alongside tea, you can also give a gift box of snacks and traditional Vietnamese desserts as Tet gifts. The Lunar New Year is a time to have fun and be indulgent, so tea is enjoyed along with tidbits and treats. They can include chocolates, cookies, candied fruits, dried fruits, nuts and more. Our top recommendation would be some locally-made chocolate from The Cocoa Project in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s ethically sourced, organic, and delicious.
5. Food Gift Boxes – The New Year Gift For Everyone
Many hotels, supermarkets, department stores, and specialized Tet stores offer pre-made gift boxes filled with yummy things to eat and drink.
The best thing about the gift boxes is that the shop has already pre-selected treats and drinks that convey good fortune from the giver to the recipient and packed them neatly in the gift basket. This can include a wide selection of the aforementioned items, along with luxury goods such as high-quality dried mushrooms, bird’s nest drinks (a delicacy in Vietnam), candied fruits, and spirits.
Gift boxes are also a fantastic solution for those who are buying for a lot of people or for shoppers in a rush.
6. Lucky Money (Lì Xì) – The Tet Holiday Gift Everyone Wants
Of course, lucky money or Li Xi in Vietnamese is the ultimate amongst Tet gifts. This is the practice of gifting money (usually new notes) in red packets. Gifting money is not seen as lackluster or uncreative like it might be in some Western cultures!
In Vietnamese culture, you give out red packets starting on the first day of the Lunar New year to children and seniors. Adult children also give their parents a red packet as a sign of respect and gratitude.
This custom is a way of conveying good luck, success, and happiness, and encourages the flow of prosperity for the whole year. An exchange of well-wishes accompanies the giving and receiving of li xi.
In Vietnam, it is also customary for people to gift red packets to service workers who help make your daily life easier. This could include security guards, cleaners, garbage collectors, concierge staff, drivers, and so on.
In general, you gift this lucky money just before the Tet Holiday starts, as many of the workers will be making the trip back to their hometowns during the actual holiday. The gifts of money is much appreciated for their own Tet celebrations. If you wish, you may gift the li xi along with fruits or snacks.
How Much Lucky Money Should I Give on Tet?
In Vietnam, people often give up to 500,000 VND ($22 USD) for New Year lucky money.
7. Calligraphed Words (Vẽ Thư Pháp) – For A Feng Shui Gift
Along with the above list, an additional quirky fun gift you can bring is greeting cards or banners written in calligraphy on red paper to bring good luck and wishes. Hanging them up can improve the Feng Shui of the house, and also serve as a festive decoration that calls back to Vietnam’s ancient culture.
This special gift would of course make you an insider to Vietnamese traditions and put you in good standing with your host. You can also use it to add Feng Shui to your own decor!
Bonus points if you can incorporate a design of the zodiac animal for that year into the calligraphy art. 2024 is the year of the dragon and 2025 is the year of the snake.
Chúc Mừng Năm Mới! – Happy New Year
Ultimately, giving meaningful Tet gifts is a way of expressing love, care, and concern. From fruits to flowers to liquor to cold hard cash, there are tons of good options for choosing gifts on the Tet Holiday.
The team at Vietnam Is Awesome wishes you and your loved ones “chúc mừng năm mới”, good health and good luck for the Year of the Dragon!