Understanding 8 Tet Food Restrictions and Abstinences

Discover the significance of Tet food restrictions and how they honor traditions. Learn more about Tet food restrictions and their cultural importance in our article.

Tet, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, is a time of joy and celebration with family and traditions. Central to Tet are food restrictions and abstinences, reflecting cultural, historical, and religious beliefs. In this blog post, we’ll explore the significance of Tet food restrictions and traditional dishes that follow these rules. Let’s uncover the intriguing world of Tet food traditions together.

The Significance of Tet Food Restrictions

Tet food restrictions are deeply rooted in Vietnamese culture, honoring ancestors and maintaining customs. Farmers faced scarcity during the Lunar New Year, leading to food restrictions. Religious beliefs also influence these practices, promoting spiritual well-being.

Types of Tet Food Restrictions


According to a widespread belief likening squid to the darkness of ink, it is among the first dishes that people avoid during the Tet festival. The belief suggests that eating squid during this auspicious occasion brings about misfortune and bad luck throughout the year. This belief may stem from the idea that the dark ink of a squid represents negativity and symbolically taints the year ahead.

Duck meat

In the northern and central regions of Vietnam, duck meat is considered a food to be avoided at the beginning of the month or year. This belief stems from the notion that consuming duck meat during this time can attract bad luck and misfortune. Ducks are often associated with negative connotations due to their quack, which is believed to resemble a sound of sadness or lamentation. As a result, people choose to abstain from eating duck meat during this period.

Bird meat

Similar to duck meat, there is a folk belief that consuming bird meat at the beginning of the year will bring about a year filled with bad luck. People hold the notion that indulging in bird meat during this time will result in a year plagued by misfortune and unfavorable circumstances. Birds, often associated with freedom and good luck, are believed to carry positive energy. However, consuming their meat at the start of the year is seen as capturing and consuming that positive energy, leaving behind negative influences for the rest of the year.


While people in the northern region do not shy away from enjoying shrimp during Tet, those in the southern region have a specific avoidance of shrimp. They believe that consuming shrimp with large heads and swimming backward at the start of the year can impede progress, success, and prosperity for the remainder of the year. This belief may be influenced by the fact that shrimps swimming backward goes against the natural forward motion, symbolizing setbacks or regression.

Balut (duck embryo)

Understanding 8 Tet Food Restrictions and Abstinences

Balut, a popular dish made from fertilized duck eggs, is both delicious and nutritious. However, people in the central and northern regions refrain from consuming balut at the start of the month or year. They believe that doing so would bring about an entire month or year of bad luck, with events unfolding contrary to their desires. This belief may be rooted in the idea that balut represents the fragility of life and consuming it at the beginning of a new period might invite unfortunate events.


While bananas are a staple fruit in the northern region’s fruit trays during Tet, people in the southern region avoid consuming them. This avoidance stems from the pronunciation of “banana” in the southern dialect, which sounds similar to the word “unable to lift up.” Thus, consuming bananas during Tet is thought to hinder career advancement and progress. This superstition highlights the influence of linguistic associations and the power of language in shaping cultural beliefs.

Orange and pear

Similar to bananas, oranges, and pears are fruits that people in the southern region tend to avoid during Tet. From the Vietnamese idioms like “Quýt làm cam chịu” or the word “lê lết” associate these fruits with negative connotations. Consequently, they are usually not displayed on the fruit tray in the southern region. These beliefs may be influenced by the visual appearance and cultural symbolism attached to these fruits, suggesting that their consumption during Tet might lead to lingering challenges or obstacles.


Understanding 8 Tet Food Restrictions and Abstinences

Durian, known for its delightful taste and nutritional value, is discouraged from being consumed on the first day of the year. Many people fear that consuming durian during this time will bring about sadness and sorrow throughout the year. The pungent odor of durian, although loved by many, may be seen as an unpleasant scent that symbolically represents negative emotions. Thus, avoiding durian on the first day of the year is believed to ensure a more joyful and prosperous year ahead.

These food-related beliefs and superstitions during the Tet festival reflect the deep-rooted cultural traditions and folklore in Vietnam. While some may view them as mere superstitions, they hold great significance for many individuals who adhere to these practices as a way to ensure good fortune and avoid potential hardships in the coming year. These beliefs not only shape the choices people make regarding their diet during Tet but also serve as a means of preserving cultural identity and passing down traditions from one generation to the next.

Tet food restrictions honor ancestors and preserve traditions, while traditional Tet dishes symbolize ancestral reverence and togetherness.

Embrace Tet traditions by observing these food restrictions and enjoying these special dishes.

May understanding and following Tet food restrictions bring joy and connection to Vietnamese culture.  

Experience the richness of Vietnamese culture and enhance your personal, academic, and career growth with VLS. Visit vlstudies.com or drop us an email to contact@vlstudies.com to start your Vietnamese language journey today.


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