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?
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
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!
- Related Article: Vietnamese Culture: Etiquette, Tips And Traditions
What Happens During Tet?
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
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!).
- Related Article: 5 Uniquely Vietnamese Cocktails To Discover
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Where To Celebrate Tet In Vietnam?
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.
- Related article: Best Time To Visit Vietnam
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).
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.
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.
- Related article: Best Things To See 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.
- For a full phrase list on Tet greetings, check out our guide: How To Say Happy New Year In Vietnamese
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 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.