HOW DO VIETNAMESE PREPARE FOR TET? 101 THINGS BACKPACKERS VIETNAM MUST KNOW
As a child grew in Vietnam, I am always looking forward to Tet holiday – beginning day of every lunar new year, according to Oriental culture.
I grow in a small village which presents deeply the traditional Tet manner. Every new year, I expect the new and beautiful clothes from my mother very soon. In order that i can show off my new dress to my friends and see their clothes. I’m excited when i have chance to visit Tet market in the city with my mom and then start to be tired when it happens more than 7 times a week. Clean the room is not boring activity to us anymore, on the other hand, we eagerly arrange the room in the neat way to welcome the new year.
1 MONTH BEFORE TET
1 month before Tet is the most suitable time for buying new clothes because in this time, new styles are updated every day. Clothing market in Tet holiday is much more crowded than the normal days. I think if the vendors try to attract the children by showing the colorful dress, they definitely succeeded. I’m completely charmed by Disney princess dress or colorful Ao dai, Disney princess shoes. The boys tend to choose the T-shirt with superman picture or sport shoes.
When i was adult, I usually go on a diet at this period. I remember after every Tet, I usually put on 3-6 kilograms.
2 WEEK BEFORE TET
Oriental culture in general and Vietnamese in particular, preparing for the new year is an important part to make sure everything perfect. Because they believe that it will bring the lucky new year, everything is going smoothly.
At this time, the leading atmosphere is bustle of shopping in the market. The appearance of Tet food contribute the expectation about Tet in each person. Meat is one of featured food in Tet. Vietnamese people keep meat in house during Tet to hope a new year full and rich. Therefore, the price of meat in this period is higher than normal. Besides that, pickled tamarind, pickled mango, some kind of candied fruit like candied ginger, candied tamarind …is indispensable items in every Tet.
New year is when people replace the old furniture with the new one. Both of my mom and dad are busy with their job. Therefore, at the end of year, the common activity in my house is clean and change some furniture. I and my brother undertake the window and room cleaning. My father start to sweep the roof and my mother takes care of blankets. Not only my family but also almost neighborhoods. Therefore, the day of cleaning up before Tet suddenly becomes a festival in my eyes.
The interesting thing is that people try to pay off their debt in advance so that they can dept-free during the new year.
1 WEEK BEFORE TET
Vietnamese family usually have an altar in their house to show the respect to their ancestors. My father – as a man’s responsibility in a home, arrange and re-decorate the altar. My mom prepare the offerings and food for 3 days in Tet because almost markets and shops are closed during Tet.
Vietnamese families have a tray of five different fruits on their altar called “Ngũ Quả” (five fruits type). I remember after every shopping, I come back home with many kinds of fruit. In Southern and Central regional culture, like my family, Five Fruits type includes custard-apple, fig, coconut, papaya and mango. By combining the names of 5 fruits to make the meaningful sentence, it represents the wish: “wish the richness enough to live” – pray for the peaceful and happy life. In Northern Viet Nam, “Ngu Qua” often consists of 5 fruits: banana, grapefruit, peach, persimmon and blueberry.
According the lunar calendar, on the 23rd of twelfth month, my dad always prepare some rice and tea as the luggage for “Ong Tao” (Kitchen God or Kitchen guardian) to return the heaven. In the richer family, offerings are usually boiled chicken and wine. Kitchen God come back 1 time a year to give his annual report on family members to the Jade Emperor. The return of “Ong Tao” happens in the eve night marked by a frugal ceremony. I often wonder ” How hard “Ong Tao” is! He starts their work even before the new year’s coming”
I used to think only children like Tet. When i grow, i realise the parent also look forward the Tet as much as we do. Because they can reunion their children, their relatives during Tet. In Vietnam, especially in the small village, the sons or daughters often left their parents and move to the city for work or study. My hometown is suddenly full of young people in Tet holiday. To me, reunion is the most important meaning of Tet.
During 1 week before Tet, “Tat Nien” ceremony takes place in each house aimed to wash the old things and welcome the new year. The offerings depends on the family’s finance. The special food my mother usually prepare is bitter melon soup – wish ” the disadvantages will pass in the new year” in Vietnamese language, meat, rice and chicken is not missing one.
Flower market appear in every corner in the town from 26th. I’m so excited when my father take me to the city and travel around many times to pick the most beautiful pot up. Apricot flower, daisy … is the featured symbol of my hometown, and along the Southern provinces. On the other hand, peach blossom represent the Tet in the North.
The street is full of distich and lucky packages in colorful paper or silk, . Like other Asian countries, Vietnamese believe that the color of red and yellow will bring good fortune, which may explain why these colors can be seen everywhere in Lunar New Year.
1 DAY BEFORE TET
Everything is relatively completed now. It’s the time for my mother prepare the special holiday food: “Banh chung” and “banh day”. Preparation for those food is quiet expensive, so that my neighborhood often gather and cook together. “Banh chung” must have green bean, sticky rice, pean, meat and banana leaves.
The bustle eve night start from 3 p.m to pack the cake. Packing is really a hard and important part so it’s undertook by the grandparents. Cooking “Banh chung” require a long time. Therefore, people often take turn to keep watch the fire overnight, the children sit around the pot to hear the stories about Tet of past years told by grandparents.
The “Banh chung” cooking activity last until the firework take places. 20 past eve nights, i always stay with my family and watch the firework. Except 1 time when i was 17, my friends take me to the city to watch firework. After that, i realise how family means to me. I remember my favorite lyrics:
” Well you only need the light when it’s burning low
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you love her when you let her go
Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low
Only hate the road when you’re missing home”
– Let her go – Passenger
Standing next to my brother and parent, under the firework, shouting loudly : Happy New Year, whisperring my wishes for the new year is the magical moment to transfer a new year.
Visit Vietnamese destination here: Top 10 best places to watch fireworks on Vietnam National holidays,