Vietnamese New Year – Tet Guide For A Distinctive Lunar New Year Festival

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Vietnamese New Year, also known as ‘tết nguyên đán’ or ‘Tet’ is a celebration of the Lunar New Year in Vietnamese culture.

Tet is the most important festival in Vietnam and marks the beginning of the new year on the lunar calendar.

When is Tet Festival?

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Flowers boats at flower market on along canal wharf. This is place where farmers sell apricot blossom and other flowers on Lunar New Year in Vietnam // Photo by Huy Thoai / Shutterstock

Tet typically falls between late January and early February, but the date changes every year as it follows the lunar calendar.

Here are the Lunar New Year dates for the next few years:

  • Tet in 2023: 21 Jan to 27 Jan – Year of the Rabbit
  • Tet in 2024: 9 Feb to 15 Feb – Year of the Dragon
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Annual calligraphy street in Ho Chi Minh City 

A Little History About Vietnamese New Year

Tết is the ancient celebration of the arrival of spring, and many of the symbols, colors, and customs enforce this image of new life and opportunity.

“Tết” is a shortened form of ‘Tet Nguyen Dan’, which means ‘Festival of the First Morning of the First Day’ in Vietnamese culture.

The Vietnamese New Year was first celebrated by the Chinese in Vietnam over 2000 years ago. At that time, Vietnam was part of Ancient China and so the Chinese New Year transcended generations to become the Vietnamese New Year.

The Tet festival was originally a three-day celebration, but it has gradually expanded to last up to two weeks. Another great benefit of Tet for employees in Vietnam is the custom to get paid a ‘13-month’ bonus. Companies often employ expats working in Vietnam with that clause in their contracts! 

What Happens During Tet?

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Tet Dragon dances are wild events // Vietnam Is Awesome

Tet is the most important national holiday in Vietnam and Tet celebrations usually last up to 14 days. Most people have time off work to travel to their hometown and spend time with family.

Tet is a time for new beginnings, and many people make resolutions for the coming year. Tet is also a time of celebration, with lots of food, beer, and family gatherings.

There are many traditions and customs associated with Tet, which vary from region to region. In this article, we will take a look at some of the most popular Tet traditions in Vietnam.

10 Best Things To Do During Vietnamese Lunar New Year

Nguyen Hue walking street
Nguyen Hue walking street and flower street during Lunar New Year at downtown of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam // Photo by Sing Studio / Shutterstock

When visiting Vietnam as a traveller or an expat, there are a few things you should definitely do during Tet. Here are our top picks:

1. Attend a Tet Celebration or Parade.

One of the best ways to experience Tet is by attending a celebration with family or friends. Many cities and towns will have Tet celebrations with food, music, and traditional games. 

2. Send Tet greetings

Tet is a time for sending blessings and good wishes to family and friends. Traditional Tet greetings cards are often decorated with poems or messages of good luck for the new year.

Send a nice message to your friends and family and join in the well-wishes!

3. Celebrate at bars and clubs

For those who want to celebrate Tet in a more festive atmosphere, there are plenty of bars and clubs that will be hosting Tet celebrations. 

4. Attend a year-end party

If you get invited to a Vietnamese year-end party, don’t pass. Most workplaces, schools, and neighbourhoods will host a party. 

Vietnamese hosts are awesome at the best of times but during Tet, you can expect a royal-like celebration with food, beer, and chanting một, hai, ba, dô (dô is pronounced as /yo/ and it means 1, 2, 3, cheers!).

5. Give gifts

Tet is also a time for giving gifts to family and friends. Popular gift items include flowers, fruits, candy, and cigarettes.

Join in the festivities by shopping for some interesting and traditional Tet gifts.

6. Visit pagodas

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Vietnamese New Year – @Adrien Jean

Many people visit pagodas during Tet to pray for good luck in the new year. The pagodas are often decorated with flowers and lights, and the air is filled with the smell of incense.

A visit to a pagoda during Tet is a must-do for any traveller or expat in Vietnam to show respect and get a little closer to Vietnamese culture.

7. Buy New Year’s lottery tickets

Another popular thing to do during Tet is to buy lottery tickets. The idea is that if you attract good fortune now and the rest of the year will be just as lucky.

Lottery tickets are a popular purchase during Tet and make for a great gift idea, too.

8. Play games

Tet is a time for playing games with family and friends. Popular Tet games include Tổ tài lộc (a game of chance), Bầu cua tôm của (a game of tossing coins), and Đá quả cầu (a marble-rolling game).

9. Watch The Tet Fireworks

Watch the Tet fireworks
Watch the Tet fireworks // Photo on

One of the most popular traditions is to watch Tet fireworks. A sky full of colourful fireworks is a beautiful sight to behold especially as they are restricted in Vietnam for most of the year.

Fireworks displays are often held in major cities throughout Vietnam during Tet but the most famous fireworks are in Ho Chi Minh City.

There are many amazing destinations in Vietnam and just because it is Tet holiday doesn’t mean you can’t travel like you usually would. Really, the possibilities for things to do in Vetnam are endless.

10. Make A New Year’s Resolution

Many people make resolutions for the coming year during Tet holiday. For example, people might resolve to quit smoking, lose weight or save money.

It’s seen as a time of new beginnings and fresh starts, so it’s the perfect time to make resolutions!

10 Vietnamese New Year Traditions To Know

traditional New Year
People go shopping for decoration in the house, preparing for the traditional New Year at China Town, District 5 // Photo by Saigoneer / Shutterstock

One of the most important customs during Tet holiday is ancestor worship. Prior to Tet, families will go to their ancestors’ graves and offer food and drinks. They will also clean the graves and decorate them with flowers.

This is also a time for family reunions. Vietnamese people usually visit friends and relatives during Tet, and exchange New Year’s greetings and special Tet gifts.

There are many traditions observed during Tet, some of which may be unfamiliar to foreigners. Here is a guide to some of the most popular Tet traditions in Vietnam:

1. Cleaning Your House For Tet Festival

Before Tet holiday, it’s traditional to clean your house from top to bottom in preparation for the new year. This is seen as a way to sweep away the old year and make way for new beginnings.

You’re also not allowed to do any housework like sweeping the floor during Tet holiday, so it’s a good time to get your cleaning done ahead of time!

2. Buying New Clothes For A Fresh Tet Holiday

Tet is a time for new beginnings, so it’s customary to buy new clothes to celebrate. Most people will buy new clothes for both themselves and their children.

It’s also considered bad luck to wear old clothes during Tet holiday, so be sure to pack your new outfits!

If you are in Hoi An for the holiday and looking for new outfits, make sure to check out Hoi An tailor-made clothes.

3. New Toys For A Lucky New Year

Buying new toys for the New Year is a tradition in many households. It is believed that the new toys will bring good luck and happiness to the child’s life.

4. Lucky Money – The best ‘Tet Nguyen Dan’ tradition

It’s also customary to give red envelopes filled with money to children and elders, this is known as ‘lucky money’.

The amount of money in the envelope usually depends on the relationship and age between the giver and receiver but can range from 20,000 VND to 500,000 VND ($0.88 – $22).

5. Win A Little Lucky Money From Cards

One of the most popular traditions during Tet holiday is gambling. Many Vietnamese people will gamble during Tet in the hope of winning big! Though, the Vietnamese aren’t big gamblers as it is banned during the year – except for Tet holiday.

6. Decorating With Tet Flowers And Plants

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Blooming yellow flower decoration in front of the house in Lunar New year // Photo by Marie Shark / Shutterstock

In Vietnam, it’s considered good luck to decorate your home with flowers and plants during Tet holiday.

You can buy special Tet flowers and plants, or you can use traditional plants like peach branches, apricot blossoms, and bamboo.

The most popular Tet flower is the peach blossom.

7. Paying Off Debts

Before Tet, it’s customary to pay off any debts you may have so you can start the new year debt-free. This is seen as an important way to begin the new year with a clean slate.

8. Wearing Red for Tet Holiday

Wearing Red for Tet Holiday
The penultimate New Years Eve – Tat Nien, the meal finishing the entire year. Vietnam lunar new year // Photo by Vietnam Stock Images / Shutterstock

In Vietnam, red is a colour of good luck, so many people wear red during Tet. You’ll see people wearing red clothes, accessories and even nail polish!

The most popular traditional dress is known as an ‘ao dai’ which is worn by teachers, office workers, and schoolchildren for traditional Tet celebrations.

Red is also the colour of the Vietnamese flag, so it’s a patriotic colour to wear during Tet holiday.

9. Dragon Dances At A Lunar New Year Festival

Dragon dances
Dragon dances at a Lunar New Year festival // Photo by Saigoneer / Shutterstock

One of the most popular Tet traditions is Dragon dances and Lion dances (the same tradition but two different names).

Dragon dances are often performed at Lunar New Year festivals, and they are a sight to behold!

A crew of 3 or 4 men dress in a dragon suit and control the dragon’s movements. The dragons are made of colourful cloth, and they are often accompanied by loud music and drums. It’s a truly amazing experience to see a dragon dance in person.

10. Traditional Tet Food Feasts And Lucky Food

Another tradition is to prepare a Tet feast for family and friends. The Tet feast typically includes dishes such as pork, chicken, sticky rice, and soup.

There are many traditional foods that are considered lucky to eat during Tet holiday. Let’s look closer.

Food – One Of The Most Important Aspects Of A Vietnamese New Year

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Making Chung cake by hands closeup, Chung cake is the most important traditional Vietnamese lunar New Year (Tet) food // Photo by Vietnam Stock Images / Shutterstock

A Lunar New Year in Vietnam is not a celebration without traditional Vietnamese food. There are many traditional foods that are considered lucky to eat during Tet, and they vary depending on which region of Vietnam you’re in.

If you’re in Vietnam during Tet holiday, be sure to experience some of this traditional Tet food!

  • Banh Chung: a sticky rice cake made with pork and beans, wrapped in banana leaves
  • Banh Tet: a sweet rice cake topped with mung beans and coconut
  • Fried Rice: a dish of pork, shrimp, and eggs served with rice
  • Thit Kho Tau: a caramelized pork dish
  • Che Dau Trang: a sweet dessert made with black soybeans and tapioca pearls
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Thit Kho Tau – A must-have traditional dish in every Southern Vietnamese household.

Where To Celebrate Tet In Vietnam?

Hoi An on a Lunar New Year's Holiday
Busy streets in downtown Hoi An on a Lunar New Year’s Holiday // Photo by David Nguyen VN / Shutterstock

Tet is celebrated nationwide, with the biggest celebrations in the major cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and the ancient town of Hoi An.

As most Vietnamese people have time off work, visiting Vietnam during this time means cities are quiet and services are limited, though tourist areas are usually still bustling with foreign and domestic tourists.

Ho Chi Minh City – Party In Southern Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City is the most popular destination to have a New Year celebration as the weather in Southern Vietnam is quite pleasant at this time of year and there is a festive feeling in the air. The streets are quiet but there is plenty to do in expat districts such as District 2.

Fireworks in Saigon 2023

The New Year’s Eve fireworks performances in Saigon will be displayed for 15 minutes, from 00:00 to 00:15 on January 22nd, 2023. Specifically, the fireworks display points in Ho Chi Minh City include 1 high point at the beginning of the Saigon River tunnel (Thu Duc City) and 5 low altitude points: Dam Sen Cultural Park (District 11), Memorial Temple Ben Noc relic site (Thu Duc city), Ben Duoc martyrs memorial temple area (Cu Chi district), Mau Than 1968 martyrs memorial area (Binh Chanh district) and Can Thanh town center (Can Gio district).

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Vietnamese New Year 2023 in Ho Chi Minh City // Photo by Tuoi Tre News

Hanoi – Winter Vibes In Northern Vietnam

Hanoi is the place to be for the Tet holiday. The city comes alive with festivities, decorations and traditional food. There are many public events that take place throughout the city, including a huge street fair in Hoan Kiem district.

The New Year celebrations have an extra festive feel as Hanoi experiences one of the best winters in Vietnam – with fresh weather and cosy bars.

Fireworks in Hanoi 2023

Hanoi will hold a series of fireworks shows at 30 venues in the capital on the upcoming traditional Vietnamese New Year’s Eve. There will be 30 fireworks shows in the capital, two of them in Hoan Kiem district in Hanoi’s downtown and one in each of the remaining 29 districts and towns.

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There’s up to 30 fireworks shows in Hanoi // Photo by Suc khoe & Doi song News

Hoi An – Ancient traditions in a UNESCO Heritage Site

Hoi An is a charming town in Central Vietnam with many traditional houses and narrow streets. The Tet celebration in Hoi An is special as the town celebrates both the Lunar New Year and Chinese New Year.

There are many traditional activities to participate in such as making lanterns, decorating homes, and eating traditional food. For tourists, it’s a great opportunity to see how the locals celebrate Tet in a UNESCO Heritage Site.

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Vietnamese New Year 2023 in Hoi An

Traveller’s Tips To Celebrate Vietnamese Lunar New Year

If you’re planning to spend your whole vacation for the Vietnamese New Year, you couldn’t miss those tips!

Book your tickets early

If you’re planning on traveling to Vietnam during Tet, it’s best to book your tickets and accommodation well in advance as many services will be limited.

Be prepared for crowds

Tet holiday is the time that Vietnamese families travel across the country to visit their ancestral hometowns, so expect crowded airports, train stations, and tourist destinations in the lead up to Tet holiday.

Respect the local customs

During Tet holiday, Vietnamese people are busy visiting family and friends, so be respectful of their time and don’t intrude on private gatherings.

If invited to a Vietnamese Lunar New Year party, consider bringing Tet holiday gifts such as red envelopes with money inside.

Learn how to say ‘Happy New Year’ in Vietnamese and other Tet greetings

Chuc Mung Nam Moi – Happy (Vietnamese) New Year!

Cung Chuc Tan Xuan – Wishing you a prosperous new year!

An Khang Thinh Vuong — Security, good health, and prosperity.

Van Su Nhu Y — May things go according to your will.

Vietnamese New Year Festival FAQs

I’m sure there are a few lingering questions surrounding Vietnamese Tet. Here are a few FAQs:

Where do I buy Tet flowers and plants?

You can buy Tet flowers and plants at any flower market in Vietnam. The most popular Tet flower is the peach blossom.

Where do I eat traditional Vietnamese dishes?

You can find traditional Tet food at any Vietnamese restaurant and you can cook a lot of these special dishes at home with a good recipe.

If you are lucky enough to know a Vietnamese family, they may invite you to their feast. This is the best way to get close to the delicious Tet food action.

If you are in the South, use our guide to the best restaurants in Saigon to find something extra tasty. Or if you’re planning a trip up North, you need our guide to the best

What is the significance of red in Vietnam?

In Vietnam, red is a colour of good luck. It also means happiness, wealth and prosperity.

Red secured its place in Vietnamese culture through ancient Viet folklore and legends that believed demons and evil spirits were afraid of the color red.

What is the Lunar calendar?

The Vietnamese use two calendars – the Gregorian calendar, also known as the Solar calendar, which is used in most countries around the world, and the Lunar calendar.

The lunar calendar is about 12 days shorter than the solar calendar as the Lunar calendar is based on months that are 29 or 30 days long, whereas the Gregorian calendar is based on months that are between 28 and 31 days long.

The Lunar calendar is used for important events such as Tet, because it is seen as a more accurate way of measuring time based on the cycles of the Moon.

The lunar month is said to be in tune with the natural rhythms of the earth, while the Gregorian calendar is more in line with the solar cycle.

Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!

Tet Festival
People Vietnamese driving a motorbike with holder flower pot behind, flowers buying for home decoration welcome Lunar New Year in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam @ Huy Thoai / Shutterstock

Tet holiday is a very important Vietnamese holiday that has been celebrated for more than 2,000 years. For travelers who are interested in experiencing Vietnamese Lunar New Year first-hand, be sure to visit Vietnam during the Tet holiday season.

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Huan Phu
Editor at Vietnam Is Awesome
Unearthing untold stories in the heart of Vietnam. Your eyes to the unseen, your voice to the unheard. Exploring the rich tapestry of this nation, one headline at a time. Join me on this journalistic journey!

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