Interesting facts about Vietnamese New Year

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1.     Clean and decorate the home

All homes are often cleaned and decorated before New Year's Eve. Children will be in charge of sweeping and scrubbing the floor. The kitchen has to be cleaned before the 23rd night of the last lunar month. Usually, the head of the household cleans the dust and ashes (from incense) from the ancestral altars. In general, it is a common belief that cleaning the house will get rid of the bad fortunes associated with the old year.

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2.     Literally means “getting new clothes”

This is often the most interesting part of the Vietnamese New Year among children. Parents usually buy new clothes and shoes for their children a month prior to the New Year but children cannot wear their new clothes until the first day of the New Year and onward. The best clothes are always worn on the first day of the year.

3.     Farewell ceremony for the Kitchen Gods (Ong Tao)

Seven days (the 23rd night of the last lunar month) prior to the New Year, each Vietnamese family offers a farewell ceremony for Ong Tao to go up to the Heaven Palace. His task is to make an annual report to the Jade Emperor of the family's affairs throughout the year!

4.     New Year's Eve

In a literal translation, New Year also means "Passage from the Old to the New Year". It is a belief among Vietnamese people that there are 12 Sacred Animals from the Zodiac taking turn monitoring and controlling the affairs of the earth. Therefore, New Year's Eve is the moment of seeing the old chief to end his ruling term and pass his power to the new chief. New Year's Eve is also the time for Ong Tao (Kitchen God) to return to earth after making the report to the Jade Emperor. Every single family should offer an open-air ceremony to welcome him back to their kitchen.

5.     The Aura of the Earth

New Year's Eve is the most sacred time of the year. Therefore, the first houseguest to offer the first greeting in the New Year is very important. If the particular guest has a good aura such as well-respected, well-educated, successful, and famous, etc, it is then believed that the family will receive luck and good fortune throughout the year. The belief of “xong dat” still remains nowadays, especially among families with businesses.

6.     Apricot flowers and peach flowers

Flower buds and blossoms are the symbols for beginning a new year. These two distinctive flowers are widely sold and purchased during Tet including apricot flowers and peach flowers. Apricot flowers are the yellow apricot flowers often seen in Southern Viet Nam which are more adaptable to the hot weather of southern regions. Thus, it is known as the primary flower in every home. Peach flowers are the warm pink of the peach blossoms that match well with the dry, cold weather from the North. New Year will not be a happy celebration if there is no sight of apricot flowers in the south or peach flowers in the north in every home.

7.     Giving away red envelopes (filled with lucky money)

This is a cultural practice that has been maintained for generations. Red envelopes symbolize luck and wealth. It is very common to see older people giving sealed red envelopes containing some lucky money to younger people.

Before receiving the envelopes, younger people have to perform a certain greeting.  Reciprocally, the older ones would return good advice and words of wisdom, encouraging the younger ones to keep up with the schoolwork, live harmoniously with others, and obey their parents. This greeting ritual and “Li Xi” is also known as “Mung Tuoi”, honoring the achievement of another year to one's life.

8.     Making offers for the Ancestors

This ceremony is also taken place on the first day of the New Year before noontime. The head of the household should perform the proper ritual (offering food, wine, cakes, fruits, and burn incense) to invite the souls of the ancestors to take part in the celebration with the family. This is the time for families to honor the souls of their ancestors and present the welfare of the family.

9.     Family reunion

New Year celebration means all family members return to their family even though they live and work in another city. Making the way home is the most exciting journey in one year’s time. No matter how hard and expensive the journey is, one must get home before the New Year’s Eve.

10.  Gambling

The most common and popular entertainment activity in the New Year is gambling for money, ranging from playing cards to lottery and cock fighting betting etc. Almost all people take part in some sorts of gambling in the New Year.

11.  Festivals

There are thousands of festivals to celebrate the New Year. There are local ones and national ones. Festivals are organized to welcome the New Year and wish for more success, happiness and luck. Festivals can last until the end of April, where businesses, companies and authority offices start to work more seriously.

Author: Duong Van Hung

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