Tết, the Vietnamese New Year

Every nation celebrates the New Year in a very special way, although different from the commonly celebrated day of January 1. In Vietnam, they follow the lunar calendar in celebrating this momentous event.

Traditionally called Tết Nguyên Ðán, the Tết is the most important and popular holiday in Vietnam. Its name literally means "Feast of the First Morning," although the celebration can last for a week. Tết can be divided into three periods: Tất Niên (before New Year’s Eve), Giao Thừa (New Year’s Eve), and Tân Niên (the New Year).

Because of China’s strong influence throughout Vietnamese history, Tết shares many customs of its Chinese counterpart. For instance, many Vietnamese prepare for Tết several weeks before the New Year by cooking foods that are particularly served for the New Year. They also clean their whole house to get rid of bad fortune associated with the old year. Families would even paint their homes to give it a new look, decorating it with Hoa Mai, a yellow flower that blooms during spring.

Tết is also considered by many Vietnamese as an occasion for pilgrimages and family reunions. They visit temples wishing for good luck throughout the year, while they visit family relatives to exchange best wishes, special food, new clothes, and new shoes. This is also the time when people pay their debts and resolve differences between relatives and friends. Other practices associated with Tết include ancestral worship and giving "lucky money" to children.

It is during the celebration of Tết when the Vietnamese become very careful about what they do, as they believe that it would determine their luck throughout the year. For instance, it is considered bad luck to visit people who are in mourning because of its association with death. Children are told not to cry nor fight during the New Year. Sweeping the house during the first day of the year is also taboo, as it might sweep away good luck.

A highlight of celebrating Tết is a special ceremony called Lá»… Trừ Tịch, which is held at the midnight of New Year’s Eve. The celebration calls for firecrackers as well as banging of gongs and other festive items that make loud noises. This is done to ward off bad luck while welcoming good luck with the New Year.

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