Tết or Tết Nguyên Đán, is the most important celebrations in Vietnamese culture which is the time we celebrate the arrival of spring based on the Vietnamese Lunar calendar. Below are some of the special cultural features in Tết holiday.
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Releasing Goldfish and the Three Kitchen Gods
According to the old concept, on Lunar December 23, Ông Công and Ông Táo or Kitchen Gods will ride a “cá chép vàng” to have a yearly report to the King of Heaven (Ngọc Hoàng).
Therefore, each family will prepare 3 goldfishes as the transportation for the Kitchen Gods and release them to neighborhood lakes, ponds or streams.
Ông Công and Ông Táo are the Kitchen Gods, governing every thing for each Vietnamese family.
At the end of the year, the Kitchen Gods will go to the heaven and inform the King of Heaven about the things that the family has done well or not well so far. So that the King and the Heaven Court can reward and punish them rightly.
Have you ever experienced going to the Tết market on the day of Ông Công Ông Táo? Don’t forget to bring a container to buy “cá chép vàng” and avoid using nylon bags!
Buying things for Tet
When it comes to Tết, buying new things and food is always the must-do activities of Vietnamese people. The quantity of stuff/thing/food must be different for each family depending on the needs and financial condition.
Below is the list of must-have things/food for your reference:
- Bánh chưng, bánh tét: In the busy and modern life, many Vietnamese family choose to buy these two must-have traditional cakes instead of making by themselves.
- Five-fruit tray: to offer to the ancestor’ altar.
- Dried fruit/sweets/cookies/… to treat the guests.
- Flowers: Hoa đào (peach blossom) or hoa mai (apricot blossom) are the 2 most popular flowers to bring the spring colors to each family on Tet holiday.
- Envelope to put lucky money on.
- Food: Tet is the most important holiday of Vietnam, all of the markets/super markets are closed. Therefore, Vietnamese people have been having the habit of storing food during Tet holiday.
Have you ever experienced Tet holiday? If so, you must have your own must-buy list on Tet holiday, don’t you? If so, please share with VLS and other foreigners out there!
Must-have Tết Dishes in Saigon
Vietnamese people in each regions have their special dishes for Tết holiday. For the Saigonese, here are 3 featured dishes on their Tết meals
While the northern has bánh chưng in Tết holiday, the southern has bánh tét. Bánh tét symbolizes the wealth from this generation to another and is indispensable. There are variety kind of bánh tét: bánh tét mặn (with pork and green bean stuffing), bánh tét ngọt (with banana and green bean), bánh tét chay (without stuffing).
Bánh tét is usually made 2 weeks before the Tết holiday. It is both used to worship the ancestor and as gift to give to other people. Bánh tét is served with thịt kho (braised pork), pickles (dưa cải, củ kiệu) to make a unique and balanced taste.
- Thịt kho hột vịt (braised pork and boiled egg)
This is one of the must-have dishes in Saigonese Tet holiday meal. The ingredients used in this tasteful dish are pork side, eggs, coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar… This dish is best served with rice and pickles.
- Canh khổ qua (bitter gourd soup)
As a belief of eating this dish can leave all the difficulties, sadness, misfortune behind to enter a new fresh and more happy year (khổ = difficulties, qua = overcome), Saigonese specially prepares this dish.
Canh khổ qua is made by stuffing chopped pork or/and black fungus and cooked with bone broth. You can taste the sweetness from pork and bone broth as well as the slightly bitter of khổ qua.
The dish has a bitter taste but is good for health.
Popular Tết Wishes
Tết holiday is one of the important holiday in Vietnam. Vietnamese people believe that the nice words/attitude in the new year days will bring us a successful/happy year long. Therefore, Vietnamese people will give each other the best wishes for a lucky and successful Lunar New Year.
Below are some of Tet holiday greetings and wishes:
- Chúc mừng năm mới: Happy Lunar New Year
- An khang thịnh vượng: safe and sound, wealthy, and prosperous.
- Vạn sự như ý: the wishes will come true.
- Tấn tài tấn lộc: a new year of wealth and fortune
- Sống lâu trăm tuổi: long life of 100 years
Sức khỏe dồi dào: plenty of health
Mùng một tết cha, mùng hai tết mẹ, mùng ba tết thầy
According to Vietnamese tradition, Tet is the time for us to show the gratefulness and respect to the elders and those who helped, supported us during the year. This is clearly expressed through the above proverb.
- Mùng 1 or the first day of Tet is dedicated to the father because in Vietnamese folk traditions, the father in particular or the men in general in the family were always in the highest position.
- Mùng 2 or the 2nd day of Tet we save it to the Mother – the “internal minister” in the family.
- Mùng 3 or the third day of Tet is for teacher – who teaches us all the best things to be a better human being.
That tradition creates a special custom for Tet to educates many Vietnamese generations. And regardless of the order of person in the above-mentioned proverb, Vietnamese people always show respect to our father, mother, teacher or any elderly person, not only during Tet holiday but every time and every where.
Xin quẻ đầu năm
“Xin quẻ” or “xin xăm” has been one of the typical cultural features during Tet holiday. Vietnamese people often go to pagoda, đình, miếu, etc., to get a “quẻ” or “xăm”.
“Quẻ” or “Xăm” is in the form of a bamboo stick or a small paper in which there are lines saying the predicted fortunes of that person in the New Year.
This spirituality tradition is considered as a “talisman” to have a lucky new year. It also advises us to avoid bad things to fulfill our plans and goals in the best way.