As exciting as Christmas in Western countries, Tet is the longest and most significant holiday in Vietnam as it is the traditional New Year celebration; And if you are expats expecting to enjoy your first Tet in Vietnam, then thousands of unique cultural and traditional things are waiting you to explore.
Tet is the time of gathering. Most Vietnamese people travel back home to spend time with their parents and relatives. You could got surprised seeing the flows of people coming home. Before and after Tet, from around 9 February to 14 February and from 19 to 22 February of this year, all means of transportation are overloaded, full with people from big cities travelling to smaller ones and back. Airline, train, and bus companies always sell Tet tickets very early, even 6 months in advance, at much higher rates.
Therefore, if you are planning to travel somewhere domestically, then look for some road-trip options that allow you to travel by your own car to near and highlighted destinations such as Ninh Binh, Ha Long Bay (with amazing cruises) in the north or Mui Ne, Da Lat in the South.
Bustle streets on the mood of Tet holiday
It is recommended to take your trip in the three first days of the lunar New Year when Vietnamese people often stay home because they have not started their spring trip yet.
From midnight of lunar New Year’s Eve and mostly on the first day of Tet, you will see many Vietnamese families visiting pagodas. So visiting pagodas is a must-try experience for you in your first Tet as it would be one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the local life and learn more about Vietnamese traditions. There are numerous destinations of pagodas and temples in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and other provinces. Quan Thanh Temple, Quan Su Temple, Tran Quoc Pagoda, Perfume Pagoda, Truc Lam Pagoda, Yen Tu Pagoda, Thien Mu Pagoda, and Linh Ung Pagoda are just few among them.
Visiting museums during the Tet holiday is also a great recommendation if you are seeking historical spaces. The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi often hosts traditional activities during Tet, representing how the different ethnicities of Vietnam celebrate their most important time of the year. Some games, exhibitions, mini fairs, and other activities receive all Vietnamese and foreigners. Make sure to check the hours of operation of the museum before your visit.
If cultural and historical sites are out of your interests, then enjoy the tranquility of beaches in the south such as Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, Quy Nhon, and more as Vietnamese people do not consider Tet beach time.
Vietnamese people consider making your house clean and vivid a great way of welcoming a successful year. All streets are dipped in red and other colorful flowers. People in different regions have their own traditions and preferences when deciding how their house would be decorated. Hoa đào (peach blossoms) is the flower of the north while hoa mai (apricot flowers) bring Tet to the South. Don’t forget to go to markets or simply walk down the street to choose Tet flowers for your home.
Another significant thing that Vietnamese people pay much attention to is decorating their five-fruit tray (Mâm ngũ quả) offering to their altar. They believe that a full tray of five types of fruits (custard apple, coconut, papaya, fig and mango) would bring happiness and fruitful achievements in the coming year. The way of choosing and arranging these fruits varies in different regions; therefore, why don’t you come to some Vietnamese friends’ house and ask them about that? Perhaps interesting stories are waiting for you.
Vietnam is well-known for its tasty foods made from numerous types of fresh ingredients and spices, yet traditional food during Tet is much more special. Many of them such as bánh chưng, bánh tét, xôi gấc, giò xào, mứt are often made only in this occasion. The preparation process for the delicious dishes of Tet would last half a month before Tet comes. You could search websites and Youtube channels (Ẩm thực Việt, Handmade Vietnam) for the food recipes but the most appealing way is to make the food with your Vietnamese friends. They will not only teach you the recipes but tell you numerous stories of tradition.
Vietnamese people are very hospitable during the Tet holiday. People often invite relatives and friends home to enjoy delicious traditional dishes. Therefore, it is a good idea to visit your friends and take the chance to try Vietnamese food specially made for Tet. Remember to prepare some red evelops of lucky money for the host’s children.
Lucky Money and Best Wishes
The New Year is also a chance for Vietnamese people to send good wishes to their family, relatives and friends. There is also a practice called “lì xì”, the olders will give children money in red envelopes and also receive lucky money from descendants. The meaning of lì xì is not showed through the amount of money, but in fortune that they brings to the recipient. The more lucky envelops you receive, the more favorable your new business will be. If Vietnamese friends give you a red envelopes, do not hesitate to take and say thank as well as send your best wishes to them.
To truly enjoy your moments of the first Tet in Vietnam and ensure a New Year of goodness, don’t forget to care about your health. Buying a good health insurance package would be one of the best. With the health insurance, you would have no worries not only during Tet but all year around, and all the time you live in Vietnam.