At Hoi An International School, we deeply value cultural traditions. Each year, we embrace the spirit of the Vietnamese Tet Holiday, an event marked by vibrant decorations that represent the essence of Vietnamese heritage. Organised by our Vice Principal Ms Phuc, we celebrate with Tet-themed activities on the last day before the Tet break.
So what is Tet all about? For those in our big HAIS community who come from countries that aren’t familiar with Tet, here are ’10 Facts for Foreigners’ that you might not know.
1. Tet is the Vietnamese word for the Lunar Year.
The full name for Tet is Tiet Nguyen Dan. Tiet means ‘a period of time’, Nguyen means ‘beginning’, and Dan means ‘early morning.’ The full meaning encompasses something akin to ‘the first day of the morning.’
2. The time you clean may bring good or bad luck so plan ahead.
If you clean on the first day of Tet, it will bring bad luck – so leave the house messy on the first day! You can clean the kitchen (see number 5 below) but no need to sweep or take out the trash on this day. You MUST however, make the house spotlessly clean before this day. The week leading up to Tet is the time to make your house sparkling which will bring luck for the year.
3. Wear red or yellow. Avoid black and white.
What you wear also holds a lot of beliefs and customs. Red and yellow is fortuitous and black and white is representative of funerals so should be avoided. So no monotones, stick to the colours people!
4. The first person who enters your house on the first day of Tet will determine how your year will play out.
You should invite someone who matches the home-owner’s zodiac sign (renters count in this instance). When it comes to the zodiac sign in question, it’s not quite as simple as identifying your animal year alone. There are also other elements to know. For example if you are Year of the Rooster – metal, you should invite a Buffalo, Snake or Dragon. Know your elements.
If you’re not sure who to invite to your home first, a successful business person or someone with strong moral values would be ideal to invite to bring luck.
5. Kitchen God cleaning tips.
There are different versions of the story about the kitchen gods but all circle around the themes of love, forgiveness and sacrifice. It’s important to clean your kitchen as soon as the Tet holiday starts.
New Year’s Eve is called “Giao Thua.” Midnight marks the time that the Kitchen God returns from the heavens so all the cleaning and other good deeds you’ve done in the days preceding, are in preparation for this moment. Being present at your family home at midnight is very important and if you have a big celebration that night the happier the ancestors will be and more likely to return.
6. Settle any debts.
If you owe any money – make sure you settle debts before Tet. Don’t ask just do.
7. Give out Luck Money (Li Xi) to children
At this time of year you should hand children money in small envelopes (often red, green or yellow). You can accept the envelopes (called Li Xi) up until you’re married, from an older person, and these should contain an even amount of cash inside. The lucky money is given to bless the kids with good wishes for the new year, so make sure you prepare these for any children in your life.
8. Buy a tree!
We’re not talking a Christmas tree, but in a way, the tradition is similar. Locally in Hoi An, the Kumquat tree is a common choice. Purchase the tree before it flowers, and if it blossoms on the first day of Tet, that will bring good luck to the family. Vietnamese people may buy two trees to place on either side of the entrance of the home.
Flowers are also chosen to decorate the home entrance and living room. In North Vietnam – peach blossoms are a popular choice because they are considered sacred and they prevent bad spirits. For Central and South Vietnam – apricot blossoms are used (these are the yellow blossoms not white).
9. Visit a Pagoda for Good Luck.
Tet is a time when Vietnamese people will visit a Pagoda to pray for health, good luck, prosperity for the coming year.
Particularly superstitious people or business owners might also give deep consideration as to how and when to kick off your business in the new year. You might find some shops open and others closed, as in order to optimise good luck, it’s not uncommon to consult a fortune teller to guide on the most prosperous day to get back to work.
10. Smile and Shop!
During Tet you should smile as much as possible. Positivity is the way to bring joy and happiness into the New Year. It’s also a time to shop, so whether it’s new shoes, new clothes or a new haircut – go out and treat yourself! Tet is the time.