Thursday, December 17, 2015

Gifts for Tet festival

 Giving gifts on Tet Festival, which has been long a traditional custom in Vietnam’s ancient culture, represents not only the close relationship but also the thorough and subtle of human behaviors. Vietnamese are extremely careful in talking and behaving on the very first days of New Year, as it can determine the good fortune throughout the year.

In the past and present

Hundred years ago, Vietnamese, most living in rural areas, had a convention of exchanging agricultural products as the gifts whenever the Lunar New Year came. A pair of sticky rice square cakes, a cock or wine kept in pottery gourd was believed to contained the essence of heaven and earth; thus would show the amiability among families and signified their dream of prosperity and a full future. In the past, the tough living conditions made it difficult for people to have new clothes frequently but only on the occasion of New Year. This reason explained why children often gave a new piece of red cloth or velvet scarf for parents, in order to express their respect, gratitude, and the hope for good health. Over times, giving gifts on Tet Holiday has become a special piece of traditional culture that is well-preserving and passing to the following generations. Since the society is modernized and relationship among people has altered to catch up with the speed of development, giving gifts is not a must for token of exchange anymore, but a part of rules of propriety. Besides the traditional meanings as neighbors, friends and families ties; giving gifts represents the long-lasting corporation between colleagues or business partners as well. Nowadays, people are willing to pay millions for luxuriously limited “baskets” of gifts, giving to bosses, wishing for support for future career.

What to give in Tet Festival?

Choosing gifts for Tet Festival is definitely not an easy task, due to the complicated norms and religion beliefs. Normally, Vietnamese will avoid giving kittens (as their meow sounds like “ngheo”- poor in Vietnamese), ink (because the color of black is considered bad fortune) and sharp items such as knives and forks. While clothes, scarfs and sticky rice square cakes are still the traditionally meaningful gifts that parents and the elderly often receive from children; there are many modern products that can be used as gifts also.

Here are among the most popular gifts given for Tet Festival:

A branch of peach blossom

Together with kumquat tree, peach blossom is regarded as the irreplaceable decoration for Tet Festival in Vietnam. Legend has it that peach blossom is the home of two deities who can control evil spirits, thus, a branch of peach blossom in New Year will drive all the ghosts and bad fortune away. There are a few kinds of peach blossom, from the red, pink to the white ones, depending on whether it is grown in mountainous or plain area. In Hanoi, Nhat Tan’s flower garden is most famous for carefully-planted peach blossom, while in Moc Chau, we can easily see wildly high peach blossom trees.

Wine and gift baskets

If in the past, wine is kept in pottery gourds, nowadays; those old gourds are replaced by modern wine bottles with well-known brands coming from both local and all over the world. However, the meaning of wine as the gift of New Year has remained unchanged. It takes a lot of time for wine to ferment and distil; so wine is highly appreciated by Vietnamese. Nevertheless, drinking wine can make people feel warm and energetic, which are exactly what people wish for their upcoming year.

If you have a Vietnamese business partner, it is time to further enhance your bonds by sending them a gift basket with branded wine.

Red items

Spring is the season of the brightest and most effulgent colors. Especially in Asia’s beliefs, red is considered good luck, prosperity, joyfulness and contentment. We can see the red color everywhere, from the ornaments, lucky envelopes, to the clothes of the elderly on the first days of New Year. Coming to Vietnam during the Tet Festival, tourists can see the whole streets covered with the color of red. Whichever gifts you plan to give, place a priority on red and yellow and avoid dark colours. For example, if you want to buy children new clothes, try to pick the most bright coloured ones. 

Greeting cards

Sending greeting cards is the custom having its roots from the contemporary era. It is fast, convenient, and certainly very suitable for today’s busy modern life. If you are a foreigner and confused about the Tet Festival gift a Vietnamese friend, there is nothing better than a greeting card. Typically, Tet Festival’s greeting cards are printed with vivid colors like red or yellow, and distinctive images such as apricot and peach blossom, square sticky rice cake, parallel sentences, etc. Common greetings can be told are “Happy New Year”, “All wishes come true”, and ‘I wish you a healthy and wealthy new year!”. Around a week before the holiday, at Vietnamese schools, teachers often help pupils making their own handmade cards. Pupils then will bring their cards home and give to show their love to parents and other family’s members.

Hoi An travel tips during Tet holiday

 As Tet holiday is the most important time of a year to Vietnamese, just like Christmas and New Year combined to Weterners, there are some notes for travellers who want to travel to Hoi An during this holiday to avoid bad experience.

1. Apply for a visa as soon as possible

Like other governmental bodies, the Visa issuing authority, including Vietnamese embassies, consulates and Immigration office, would be closed from January 21st and will only get back to work on January 30th. Therefore, you should work out your travel plan carefully and apply for the visa as soon as possible to avoid the unnecessary delay of flights.

At the airport, the immigration officers on call remain open to give you visa stamp for visa on arrival.

2. Book in advance

As many foreigners share the same interest in experiencing a traditional Tet in Vietnam, it would be not easy to get rooms in Hoi An’s hotels, especially high-quality ones, if you didn’t book in advance. The 9 day holiday means that the locals also have ample of time to head Center and South for holiday too and Hoi an is always a quality choice.

Transport is another matter to be concerned. Reserve your airplane tickets and train tickets as soon as you can and expect holiday surcharge. 

3. Shops closed/ Shops open

Though recently, there have been more and more shops opened on Tet holiday, tourists still have to be aware of the fact that a number of shops would not do so. Especially for those who want to have new clothes made at Hoi An’s famous tailors, Tet is actually not the best time. The exception is A Dong Silk at 40 Le Loi Street, Hoi An. Tel (84) 0510 3863 170. This tailor will be closed for just 1 day before Tet and the first day of Tet only (January 22nd and 23rd). 

If you plan to stay in Hoi An after January 26th, there would be more options, including

> Yaly Couture at 358 Nguyen Duy Hieu St., Hoi An, which has 4 showrooms as below Showroom 1: 47 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street; Showroom 2: 47 Tran Phu Street; Showroom 3: 358 Nguyen Duy Hieu Street; Showroom 4: 580 Cua Dai Street

> Kim My Tailor at 70 Tran Hung Dao St., Hoi An.
> To To Boutique at 32-34 Ba Trieu St., Hoi An.
> Thu Thuy Tailor at 60 Le Loi St., Hoi An

4. Restaurants closed/ Restaurants open

The good news is that most restaurants don’t close the whole Tet and usually just for a couple of days. Here are some suggestions:

> Le Banyan bar
An Bang beach, Hoi An 51000, Vietnam - Tel: 0935100337

> The Cargo Club
107 D Nguyen Thai Hoc, Hoi An, Vietnam - Tel: 0510 3910 489

> Dao Tien
21 Phan Boi Chau, Hoi An, Vietnam

> Good Morning Vietnam
102 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Hoi An, Vietnam - Tel: 0510 3910 227

> Lantern Town Restaurant
49 Nguyen Thai Hoc Str, Hoi An, Vietnam - Tel: + 84 1239912212

> Laugh Cafe Restaurant

126 Tran Cao Van St, Hoi An, Vietnam - Tel: 0905192532

> Voulez-Vous

631 Hai Ba Trung, Hoi An, Vietnam - Tel: 0510 3927 339

5. High prices

Don’t expect food, clothes, etc. to be as cheap and reasonable as stated in your travel guide. On Tet holiday, everything, with bill or not, will involve a holiday surcharge, from a bowl of Cao Lau to a suit made to order. Moreover, many restaurants may not have full menu either. Accept this as part of your holiday will relieve you from unnecessary stress.

6. Be careful when buying or bargaining

When you want to buy something in shops during Tet holiday, be careful, especially with bargaining. Sellers have strong belief that if their new year starts strong with the generating of many sales this will determine a prosperous outcome for the year. Hence it can be very disappointing and annoying to a merchant if you inquire about an item to later not buy it or you bargain so much. This is a sign of loss prosperity through-out the year, to their opinions. In order not to get their anger, try to buy at least one thing in their shops, even the smallest and cheapest one, in case you have entered their shops and asked for goods. The advice is to look at the item carefully from outside before getting inside. Looking does no harm.

2016 - Year of the Monkey

 For Vietnamese kids, monkey is probably the most familiar animal. Monkey is often thought of as a smart and fast animal which now exists either in a circus or in rural rainforests.

“Popular” monkeys in Asian cultures

It is believed that the association of the twelve animals in the calculation of time and date rooted in the worship of animals. Monkey, the animal that most closely resembles human, is undoubtedly chosen. In fact, monkey is not only reputed in the zodiac but also in classical literature and traditional religions. Ton Ngo Khong (or Sun Wukong in the famous Journey to the West TV series) is but one member in the league of famous monkeys.

In India, Hunuman is also a monkey that is worshipped. The divine monkey first appeared in the two major Sanskrit epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, and later became known as one of the Hindu deities. Hanuman is not only popular among Hindus but also revered by Buddhists in Central, Southeast and East Asia.

Personalities of the “monkey” people

Both Ton Ngo Khong and Hanuman are dipicted as intelligent, versatile, inventive but sometimes naughty warriors. Likewise, people born under the monkey sign are believed to be smart, creative, possessing a magnetic personality but at the same time mischievious. Like money which is an distinctively intelligent animal, “monkey” people are born to be inquisitive and curious. These qualities make them such fast learners and enable them to excel in a wide range of careers from business to science and arts.

On the other hand, for the same reason, “monkey people” are always seeking novelty. Therefore, they may find it difficult settling down in relationship. Easily bored, they often have many partners. Yet, those who can conquer the heart of “monkey” people are fortunate since “monkey” people tend to be very open and attentive in communication.

In discussion, “monkey” people are often assertive, willing to present their own ideas,which makes them active members of any group or organization. The weakness is that they may become too talkative, arrogant and impatient sometimes. “Monkey” people can achieve more if they know how to resist the urge and listen to others. Health is often not a worry to “monkey” people since they prefer an outdoor and active lifestyle. Still, “monkey” people should pay more attention to ensure their safety when they are outdoor.

Outgoing, attractive and creative, “monkey” people have a good chance to become famous. David Copperfield, Joan Crawford, Tom Hanks, Harry Houdini, Will Smith and Miley Cyrus are some of the celebrities who were born under the monkey sign.

The monkey year 2016

According to the Lunar Calendar, the monkey year of 2016 is Binh Than or Fire Monkey year. It is believed that in Binh Than year, parents should give birth in Summer or Spring to ensure the best future for their children. Furthermore, the monkey year 2016 is predicted to be an unstable year when careful planning and group action may fall short. Individual effort and innovation will play a more important role than institutional and orthordoxy attempt. Rely on your own instead of your organization and go ahead with your ground-breaking ideas will be the most sensible advice in the monkey year of 2016.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Mung Bean Pudding - Vietnamese Che Kho

 To many Hanoian generations, mung bean pudding has become a familiar dish which always presents on the ancestors’ altar at New Year’s Eve. Mung bean pudding is not a delicacy but a dessert, its ingredients contain a precious medicine for gastrointestinal diseases – the cardamom.

Cardamom is a highly aromatic spice that is most commonly planted in mountainous provinces of Viet Nam, its flavor is slightly sweet and hot, very suitable to combine with a wide range of other ingredients from poultry, vegetable to cake. And in the dish of mung bean pudding, the hot cardamom goes perfectly with the cool mung bean.

 Unfortunately, this dish has lost its position in Vietnamese Tet’s meal, people can only see this dish at markets or at pagodas’ fast.

Mung bean pudding is made from dried mung bean, sugar, grapefruit extract and cardamom following a secret portion that only skillful and experienced cookers know and that is the reason why ancient mothers always took this dish to test the ingenuity of their future daughter.



How to make Vietnamese mung bean pudding.
Preparation time: 15 Minutes
Cook time: 120 Minutes

Prepare ingredients

• 0.5 kg dried mung beans (still in shell)
• 0.5 kg granulated sugar
• 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
• 1/2 tablespoon grapefruit extract (or vanilla)
• 1 dash of Cardamom powder

 Detail Recipe

1. Soak mung bean overnight, pick out all bad beans, and remove shell/skin of the rest, let dry.
2. Dry sesame in a hot shallow pan, let cool.
3. Boil mung beans in a pot until tender, about 50 minutes to 1 hour.
4. Boil water, add sugar and mix with the boiled mung bean, cook over low heat, stir constantly until it becomes a thick paste.
5. Add cardamom powder, grapefruit extract and sesame.

Served warm or cool.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Bánh Tét - Essential to Tết in the South of Vietnam


Banh Tet, a representative cake in the South Vietnam, can be easily found at any house during Tet. Banh Tet is another modified version of Banh Chung from the North. The ingredients, such as the glutinous rice, mung bean, cooked pork are almost the same as Banh Chung’s. The shape of Banh Tet, however, is cylindrical not square or round shaped.

 Making Banh Tet

Banh Tet is often made in advance, about a week prior to Tet. Glutinous rice must be the best one - fragrant and fresh to create the highest quality Banh Tet. Mung bean should be rinsed many times before being cooked. Pork and pork’s fat seasoned with salt, sugar and other spices is cooked in advance before mixing all together. Some people also put dried shrimps together with pork at the core to make it more delicious. Banana leaf is used to cover all the ingredients. Once all ingredients prepared in advance have been put on the banana leaf and tightened with some plastic ribbons, Banh Tet, then, will be steamed in a large pot.

 When it’s ready, people use some threads and cleverly cut it horizontally. The soft glutinous rice well mixed with pork and mung bean looks like a donut without a hole in the middle but with a tasty core. Banh Tet is often eaten with cu cai muoi, cu cai nuoc mam (turnip pickles, turnip fishsauce pickles) and thit kho nuoc cot dua (pork cooked with coconut juice). Banh Tet can be stocked in the refrigerator during Tet. Whenever they want, they can steam it to reheat it or fry it in a pan to change the taste. Some people put some powder covering Banh Tet and fry it which makes it crispy and even tastier.

Serving Banh Tet and varieties

Tea would usually be an ideal drink to go with any kind of cake. Banh Tet is not an exception. A cup of hot tea would be perfect for cleaning adhesive rice in your teeth’s corners and increase the taste of Banh Tet when it comes down the throat.

Besides, Banh Tet can also be made from banana, called Banh Tet Chuoi. Banana must be ripe enough to make Banh Tet Chuoi sweet. Unripe banana will results in bitter and sour Banh Tet Chuoi. Banh Tet Chuoi is popular in Mekong Delta area, especially in Tien Giang Province. If you get a chance to stop by a market in Tien Giang Province, be sure not to miss it. Try a bite and you may like it,then!

If Banh Chung – Banh Day is considered as a symbol for the North, Banh Tet is a unique dish for Southern people. Banh Tet, as well as its process from making to savoring, has been a significant activity that partially brings the warm Tet atmosphere of reunions among family members and neighbors when they sit together and share the taste of Banh Tet on the first day of New Year.

Boiled Chicken - A Simple yet Unique Taste of Vietnamese food


Living in a culture of wet rice civilization, Vietnamese has a deep connection with nature and to them, besides the buffalo, chicken is one of the six most familiar animals (including: chicken, pig, goat, buffalo, and horse).

Chicken was domesticated a long time ago and has occupied an important role in Vietnamese life, we can see it through:

The custom of telling fortune by chicken feet:

Vietnamese believe that feet of the chosen cock (the one offered to Gods at New Year Eve) will let them know about the coming year of each generation in the family.

It requires an old and experienced person to read the message from a pair of cock’s feet, but in general, nice yellow feet with clustered claws are good. As according to ancient people’s explanation, “chicken use 3 claws to dig land to find food, 4 claws to fight against enemies. When a chicken clusters its claws, it shows the voluntary dedication”.

Chicken feet which inform good signs will be hung on the kitchen’s roof till the next New Year Eve, in the hope to bring about good luck for the family in the new year.

The Vietnamese perception of chicken:

Chicken brings many values such as rich-nutrient food, natural clock (Vietnamese farmers wake up as the chicken starts their dawn song)  or in spiritual life, chicken or more precisely cocks symbolize for the divine relationship because they feature for 5 virtues of:

- Knowledge (Văn): cock’ crest looks like ancient civil mandarin’s hat.
- Martial art (Vũ): cock’s spurs and beaks are used as powerful weapons in fighting.
- Bravery (Dũng): cocks protect hens and chicks.

- Care (Nhân): a cock can combine with many hens.
- Prestige (Tín): cock always crows on time, whether it is sunny or rainy.

The above aspects contributes to an indispensable role of the chicken in Vietnamese daily life.

Chicken for Tet:

During Tet, boiled castrated cock is essential – it is often considered a symbol of purity and best offering to ancestors.

Cocks using for Tet need to meet the strict demands such as: crests must be bright red, feather is smooth, and legs are small – signs of a strong cock. After being boiled, the cock holding a rose in its beaks will be respectfully displayed on the family’s altar. In some families, people trim a carrot into a flower to replace the rose, whether it is a rose or a trimmed carrot, it shows the Vietnamese’s yin-yang concept, as the flower demonstrates the yin (female).

How to make boiled chicken:

Ingredients:


• 1 chicken.
• 1 dried lime peels.
• 1 tsp salt.
• 2 tsp ginger.

Directions:

1. Wash the chicken with salt and water, let it dry.
2. Add 3 liters water, ginger, salt and the chicken into a pot, boil in 30 minute.
3. Dust the chicken with chopped lemon leaves.

Banh Chung (Chung cake or square rice cake)

History and Legend
The origin of Banh Chung can be traced to Hong Bang Dynasty – when the 6th Hung Emperor ruled the land. Sadly thinking he was too old to lead the country, Hung Emperor wanted to find the one to inherit his position and sit on the throne. Therefore, he held a cooking contest for his 21 sons, and who could fully satisfy his taste would be the winner.

Most princes set out on their journey to find special, exotic and far-fetched food, except for Lang Lieu – the 18th son of Hung King, also the poorest and loneliest since he lost his mother at a young age. Not having enough money to afford such delicacies, Lieu just stayed around his house. Thanks to the help of a fairy in his dream, Lieu came up with 2 types of cake called ‘Banh Chung’ and ‘Banh Day’ and started baking exactly like what he had been told. On a spring day on which all the princes’ labor had to be presented, Lang Lieu and his wife brought Banh Chung and Banh Day to the emperor while other princes presented such expensive and unusual dishes.

Others sneered at Lieu’s cakes, but Hung Emperor was deeply impressed by the special flavor of these cakes. He asked Lieu about the meaning of these cakes. Lieu said that he had cooked the glutinous rice, then molded it into a round rice cake, and called it Banh Day as it symbolized the sky we live under; he also cooked a square rice cake, stuffed it with cooked bean paste and ground meat in the middle, and called it Banh Chung, which was symbolic of the earth we live on. After that, Hung Emperor decided that Lieu was the winner and passed his throne to him. Since then, Banh Chung and Banh Day become traditional foods during the Tet holiday

Banh Chung today
Banh Chung can be served as it is or fried to make ‘Banh Chung Ran’ – a delicious for such cold February in Vietnam. In some other regions, especially the Southern part of Vietnam, Banh Chung can be wrap in a cylindral shape with same ingredients, called ’Banh Tet’. A similar one to Banh Tet is ‘Banh Tay’ or ‘Banh Chung Dai’ (Long Banh Chung), served solely in the North with mung bean and little or no pork, hence, can be preserved for a longer period. There are also many variations of Banh Chung according to regions, religions and likings such as Banh Chung Gu (Humped Banh Chung) of San Diu people, Banh Chung Chay (Vegetarian Banh Chung) for vegetarians and Buddhists, Banh Chung Ngot (Sweetened Banh Chung), etc.

In traditional context, the process of making Banh Chung is an occasion for Vietnamese family members to get together. Sitting around the warm fire, talking and telling each other past stories, they get ready for a New Year with lots of good wishes. Although nowadays, not many Vietnamese families keep this habit anymore, Banh Chung is still an irreplaceable dish of Vietnamese ancestor altar on the occasion of Tet. It is the evidence of the Vietnamese loyalty and great gratitude to their ancestors.

The importance of Banh Chung has already gone into poetry:
‘Thịt mỡ, dưa hành, câu đối đỏ
Cây nêu, tràng pháo bánh chưng xanh’
Translation:
‘Rich meats, Salty onions, red couplets
Nêu tree, firecracker, green banh chung’.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Tet Nguyen Tieu - First full moon of the year

 Besides Tet, Tet Nguyen Tieu (First Full Moon of the New Year) is also a good opportunity for foreigners to experience Vietnamese culture thoroughly. Although Tet Nguyen Tieu originates from China, when being spread to Vietnam, Tet Nguyen Tieu has adopted to the particular cultural aspect of VIetnam and plays a significant role in Vietnamese's cultural and religious life.

Most Vietnamese people believe that the First Full Moon of the New Year  is the most important among all full moons throughout the year. On January 15th of Lunar Calendar, people are supposed to go to pagodas and pray for the best things coming to every family members and their beloved friends. It is not uncommon to see people eating vegan food and drinking plain water on the special day. Peaceful mind and lucks for the coming year are the general purposes.

 Vegetarian food for Tet
In Ho Chi Minh City, the Cho Lon in District 5 is the most exciting place to visit during Tet Nguyen Tieu. You may try che troi nuoc, a special kind dessert, the sweet soup with rounded ball made from glutinous rice and sugar sauce, which symbolizes for “Reunion”. The Cultural Center of District 5 is often the place where most activities to celebrate Tet Nguyen Tieu take place. By coming over the center from 12th-15th , visitors may get a chance to experience the exciting atmosphere of the Hoa community here. People gather to see the lion-dragon dance show. It is believed the lion-dragon’s appearance brings luck, prosperity and success for the New Year. Besides, visitors can enjoy the parades around the streets in District 5 with many people and decorated vehicles, which is somehow like a small street carnival. Please make sure your camera is fully charged so that you can shoot or record any moment you would like. You are surely interested in those activities which you may not find anywhere else at anytime else.


If you want to have a shot of lanterns without traveling to Hoi An which is too far away from Ho Chi Minh City, you may like Tet Nguyen Tieu at the Cultural Center of District 5. Lanterns are decorated and exhibited in a gorgeous way. Along the streets, lanterns are also hung up in rows. That’s why visitors who even have been to District 5 before still get amazed at what they are seeing at the moment and wonder if they are traveling to another country.

While District 1 is younger with lots of occidental architecture and sparkling luxurious buildings to welcome Tet, District 5, as time passes by, still remains its oriental beauty of old-styled houses and intrinsic cultural values gathered by the Hoa community living here. Tet Nguyen Tieu, one of the biggest events beside Tet, cannot be missed with any excuse because of the chance to feel and take a breath of a combined Vietnamese-Chinese culture that visitors can hardly find out at any other places.

In general, Tet Nguyen Tieu is celebrated among the Buddhist community, especially in the centre and southern part of Vietnam. Similar to Ho Chi Minh City, if you are in Hue and Danang during the occasion, you will see a grand, though a lot calmer, celebration of Tet Nguyen Tieu. Vegetarianism is widely practiced.

In the Northern part like Thanh Hoa or Hanoi, Tet Nguyen Tieu is more to pray to the ancestors: people will be busy shopping for grocery and paper offerings to present the most beautiful flowers and freshest fruits to put up on the family's altars.

In 2012, Tet Nguyen Tieu will fall on Monday February 6th so if you are in Vietnam from February 4th, you will sure feel the festive atmosphere.

Friday, December 4, 2015

New year reopening? Pick the right date for your business!

 Derived from the perfectionist viewpoint of welcoming all good things and avoiding bad things at all cost, in Vietnamese culture, before doing important things such as building a house, organizing a wedding party or starting a business, Vietnamese are convinced that choosing the right date is vital. Some may view choosing the good date as a superstitious action, however, to most Vietnamese people, it has become a habit and a belief which is good results may come with good chosen dates.

Many people go to a fortune teller to choose a date to start their business, be it a new one or just when to continue the operation in the new year. The act of opening the door of a convenience store, or to press start to a machine in a factory, all need to strictly follow age-based guidelines. The fortune teller would ask about their age and the hour and date of birth which are then analyzed based on Chinese philosophies to figure out the most suitable date for the founder of the business. Some other people who already master the concept of Yin and Yang and the Five Basic Elements (Thuyet Am Duong Ngu Hanh), with the help of the book on the same topic, can choose the best date themselves.

On the first few days of the new year, usually a good day will be picked and people will come to their office or store to start the business for the year. Even though they may just come for an hour and won't open their stores until days later, it is still considered a mark to official declare that the good date is the start date so that lucks and fortunes will come to the business in the new year. As it is believed that what happens during that hour will become the fate of the work for the year, people try to stay as happy and welcoming as possible: some even asks families and friends to come and buy something from them with new bank notes (money paper) in the hope that the business will be prosperous all year round.

As said, the good date varies years by years and the ages of the owners. According to Vietnam Research Center - School of Oriental, in 2012, the best date for opening a business or starting the business for the new year is January 9th (Lunar Calendar) or January 31st (Gregorian calendar). The golden hours is between 7:20 and 9:20 or between 11:20 and 13:20. Note that this is just the general good date, but depending on the business owners' age, there may be other dates between January 1-6th (Lunar Calendar as well).

Interestingly, certain business are influenced by their own beliefs. For example, Vietnamese has a saying that "Tranh di mung 7, tranh ve mung 3" - Avoid departure on the 7th and arrival on the 3rd. That is why most travel agencies avoid organizing tour that starts or leave on the 3rd and 7th of January during Tet.

Through out the year, there are three black dates on which Vietnamese avoids doing 'big' things: 05, 14, 23 of each lunar month (the individual number adds up to 5 in each). Some exceptions might be taken considering other factors. But people, who even know nothing about how to choose the date for their business prefer not launch it on one of these three dates stated above.

Why is choosing the date to start a business so important to Vietnamese people?

There are two main reasons that keep sustaining these traditions for a history time.

1. Prevention is better than cure

It does not take a lot effort to choose the right date for their business. Most people choose the right date with the original purpose of avoiding bad things to happen. Most do not want to speak "if only" when they know they could have a better outcome by choosing the right date from the beginning.

2. Strong belief initiates motivation

Vietnamese people’s life is much based on spiritual values. Ancestor worshipping or religions are both pervasive and influential on a daily basis. As a learned behavior throughout many generations, successful businesses come from choosing the right date, the very first step to their business and it comes back on a yearly basis. Gradually, people believe date choice is one among success factors for their business. The belief of being successful initiate strong motivation for people to overcome obstacles they come up against when it is in process. With intrinsic motivation in mind, they are more likely to gain significant achievements in the future.

Origin of Vietnam tradition Xông đất

 Year by year, Tết holiday has repeated in the role of the most fundamental and also biggest festival of a year to Vietnamese, from Kinh people to ethnic communities. In this crucial event, Xông đất (first visit to a home in a year) appears to be one of the indispensable rites. People in Vietnam have appreciated more and more the importance of this culture. It has been modified a lot with a considerable number of rules and requirements, which both preserve the essence of Xong Dat tradition while adapting to the modern life of a Vietnamese.

If one does a survey asking Vietnamese about the origin of “Xông Đất”, a majority of asked people might not be able to answer. Only a few elderlies and experts on Vietnamese culture have adequate knowledge to tell the stories about the origin of this traditional rite, but these stories are also different and sometimes confusing.

“Xông đất” and the connection with Taoism

Many Vietnamese people and cultural experts believe that Xông đất originated from Taoism when it was universalized in Vietnam thousands years ago. The main doctrine of this tradition generated from the elite of agricultural culture in the South of China, therefore it more concentrates on living harmonically and peacefully with the nature and people around.

In Vietnam, Taoism has been spread and become popular thousands year ago among normal people like farmers, merchants or vendors because of its emphasizing on nature. Therefore, this religious tradition has significantly impacted Vietnamese culture.

Vietnamese always keep in mind a desire of long last living and fortune for everything they do and seek ways to satisfy their demand. And with the doctrine of Taoism of the harmony of 5 nature elements (fire, water, earth, metal and wood), Vietnamese began to invite people who are suitable for them, expecting luck and success for the new year. For example, Vietnamese believe that water nurtures trees, so that people with “Water” clause are suitable for the first visiting (xông đất) people with “Tree” clause. The truth is that this harmony belief is also applied to many other affairs of Vietnamese such as building houses or purchasing cars and apartment.

Doctrine of the 12 Zodiac animals and impact on the appearance of “Xông Đất”

Another theory is stated that “Xông đất” might originate from traditional rites of Vietnamese people to worship the 12 Zodiac animals.

12 Zodiac animal theory refers to the collection of 12 animals that represent year and age of people, including: Rat, Buffalo (Ox in Chinese culture), Tiger, Cat (or Rabbit in Chinese culture), Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Hen, Dog, Pig. They are made up to 6 pairs that negatively impact each other. Also, there are pairs that positively influence each other which means that bringing fortune, success and good to each other.

Examples of the complementary astrology:

Household head: Mouse  - First visitors: Monkey - Dragon - Buffalo
Household head: Buffalo - First visitors: Snake - Hen - Mouse
Household head: Tiger - First visitors: Horse- Dog-  Pig
Household head: Cat - First visitors: Goa - Pig - Dog

Sometimes, choosing the first visitor to come to the family depends on other factors as well. Some people might not have the most matching astrology with the household head but they are known to be amiable and "luck-generator" which are preferred by the host. The vice versa also holds water. The Xong Dat tradition has grown in importance over years, as people place a higher value in spiritual and belief life and so is choosing the right one to Xong Dat.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

What Vietnamese people often do on the last day of the year?

The last day of the year is also the most important day since people trying to finish all necessary remaining duty of the whole year and preparation for an upcoming year. The more carefully those works are done on the day, the more lucky family will get in a New Year. Below are five most common activities Vietnamese people often do on the last day of a Lunar New Year.

1. Cleaning and decorating house
Sweeping house on the first few days of Lunar New Year is avoided at all cost by Vietnamese people because traditional belief considers this action a way of driving away "Thần Tài". Thần Tài is the God of Luck who brings financial fortunes to families in a New Year so if he is expelled, the family would suffer from lots of financial difficulties. Therefore, although people are extremely busy as the year comes to end, everyone manages to clean ones’ house on the last day of the year.

Houses are then re-decorated with Tet’s trees and flowers and tiny red ornaments as symbol of Tet. This is pretty similar to the way Western people decorating Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve.

2. Cleaning ancestor altar and setting “mâm ngũ quả”
While women in the family are busy with cleaning house or cooking, men, especially the father in his family are usually in charge of cleaning ancestor altar. In any Vietnamese heart, there is a b spiritual relationship between deceased people and alive people; and ancestor altar is like a home or portal of them to come back to this world when worshiped. Due to this, cleaning ancestor altar is a way for Vietnamese to show respect to ancestors. The work is done in the most careful and meticulous way as well as using most fresh and clean water and sweeping tools.

An indispensible decoration for ancestor altar in Tet is “mâm ngũ quả” (the tray of five fruits). The five fruits in five colors represent five natural elements: Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth; each element also covers a meaning or can be said a wish for the New Year like wealthiness, luxurious, long-lived, healthiness and peace.

3. Tất Niên Meal - Year end gathering
The last meal of the year is also the most important one when every member of a family unites no matter how busy they are. During the cozy meal, the sentiment of the family is strengthened while members share all the feeling and experiences gained through the whole year together, from sadness to happiness. All the stresses seem to be dismissed in after the meal that the family is full of energy and happiness to welcome the New Year. The dinner is also the most delicious meal of the year thanks to lots of care and sentiment of mothers and sisters in the family are hidden inside a wide variety of Vietnamese traditional food.

4. Watching TV shows

Entertaining TV shows are well designed by many Medias to encourage spirit of people as well as reducing waiting time to the New Year’s Eve. Besides special music shows or art show, the comedy show “Gặp nhau cuối năm” is highly appreciated by Vietnamese in which famous comedians play as kitchen gods explaining events of the year to the Jade Emperor in sarcastic way to bring meaningful laughs to people.

5. Praying on the Tet's Eve
At the moment when the old year pass and replaced by a new year, an indispensible tradition of every Vietnamese do is to pray in front of the family altar. This meaningful tradition is to call forth deceased spirit to unite with the family to welcome the New Year together. Most also take this opportunity to silently voice their wishes for a new year full of health, luck and joy. As the year turns, many families also gather around firework launching area to count down and celebrate the new year moment with freshly made friends.

Foods for Tet holidays


Vietnamese people have a very good habit of saving, which are reflected by the regular meals – rice with a main dishes (meat or fish/shrimp), a vegetable food and a bowl of soup. Vietnam food is thus often jokingly labelled "food for peasants". However, this statement no longer holds water during Tet holiday, when Vietnamese let themselves taste more protein-rich and sophisticatedly made dishes. Following are the most typical food found in Vietnamese' Tet holiday:

Banh chung / banh tet (Square cake)
Banh Chung (steamed square cake) and its Southern variety called Banh Tet - is unique to Vietnam's Tet holiday, though many other countries (China, Japan, Korean, Singapore, Taiwan) celebrate this holiday as well. Banh Chung is a food made from glutinous rice, mung bean and pork, added with many other ingredients. Banh Chung is covered by green leaves (usually banana leaves) and symbolizes the Earth, invented by the prince Lang Lieu from Hung King dynasty. Besides traditional reason, Banh Chung is chosen as the main food for Tet holiday because of it can last long for days in the severe weather of Vietnam (Banh Chung can survive at room temperature for nearly 1 month).

Vietnamese sausage:



Gio Cha (Vietnamese ham/sausage) is another traditional food in Tet holiday, and usually served with Xoi (sticky rice) and Banh Chung. Gio is different from Cha since Gio is boiled and Cha is deep-fried. Vietnamese people make Gio from lean meat, added fish sauce and covered by leaves then boiled for hours. Cha is also made of lean pork and ingredients, but Cha is not wrapped by leaves and boiled but deep-fried in oil. Cha just survive for some days when Gio can last for month due to its covers. There are many kind of Gio, categorized by its origins: Gio Lua (made from pork), Gio Ga (made from chicken), Gio Bo (made from beef). All these types are used not only in Tet holidays but also over the year.

Sticky rice - xoi:


Xoi (Sticky rice) is also a very important part of Tet holiday in Vietnam, since the meals to worship the ancestors can not missing this dish. Moreover, along with Banh Chung, xoi is the main staple foods for Tet holiday. Xoi in Tet holidays can be seen in many forms: Xoi Lac (sticky rice with peanuts), Xoi Do Xanh (sticky rice with mung bean), Xoi Gac (sticky rice with special “gac” fruit). Among these types, xoi gac is favorite the most by people because of its special red color – symbolizes the luck and new achievement for the New Year. Xoi is usually served with Gio Cha or boiled chicken in Tet meals. Sometimes it can be served with Che (sweet soup) like a dessert.


Boiled chicken - Thit ga:

Thit ga (boiled or steamed chicken) plays an important role in Tet holiday cuisine because all the tribute meals to the ancestors must contain a boiled chicken, whole or chopped. Chicken meat in Tet meals are various in forms: usually chicken are boiled and sliced, but sometimes people can place the whole chicken in a plate, or nowadays some families use roasted or fired chicken to replace the original boiled ones. Chicken meat is served with Xoi (sticky rice) and Banh Chung, and become one of the most popular main dishes in Tet holidays. Boiled chicken are always go with sliced lemon leaves and salt-and-pepper sauce, as a tradition. Chicken (especially bones, legs and heads) can be used to prepare the broths for other soups.


Mut - Candied fruits



Mut Tet (Tet jam) is not a food to serve in a meal during Tet holiday, but more like a snack to welcome guests in this special period. Mut is always kept in beautiful boxes and placed at the table in the living room, and it is the main food for the owners and guests to taste when they’re talking, enjoyed over a cup of tea. Unlike Western jam, which is usually in liquid form and served with bread, "Vietnamese jam" is mainly in dry form, usually dried fruits and some kind of seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, watermelon seeds). This once-in-year mix of snack is very large in variety, with so many tastes: ginger, carrot, coconut, pineapple, pumpkin, lotus seed, star fruit, sweet potato. Nowadays, cake and sweet are slowly replacing jam in Tet period, but many people still love the taste this unique food – an angle of Vietnamese culture.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

5 Things You Should Know About Visiting Vietnam During Tet

1. Transportation:
This is one big concern that seems to occur to most holiday travellers. Without doubt, it is quite difficult to plan your trip when air, trains and coach are mostly fully booked. Tet holiday is when domestic travel volume rockets, especially South-North route before Tet and North-South after Tet. This is because during the year many Northern people migrate to Southern provinces where gather many industrial park and businesses. Tet, just like Thanksgiving, is a time for family reunion and consequently, air and trains connecting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are sold out well in advance.

In January 2012, Vietnam Airlines will add hundreds of flights to serve increasing traffic during Tet - which is a relief for many. However, we strongly recommend that you book your air tickets as early in advance as possible. Expect some price hike on international routes, just like Christmas time, because many overseas Vietnamese return to the country to celebrate Tet. On domestic routes, price will not change much but tickets are hard to get, especially on Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh City and vice versa. The same rules for train tickets reservation: beware of popular route such as Hanoi - Sapa, Hanoi - Danang, Ho Chi Minh City - Nha Trang and vice versa. Some will see up to 30% fare increase while most agents will turn down your request for tickets if you traveling date is too closed. 


2. Accommodation:
Unlike popular myths, hotels and hostels in Vietnam during Tet are abundant - there is no need to worry about overbooked hotel rooms. Tet holiday is a not a leisure travelling time for most domestic so you will have many choices with regard to accommodation. Some hotels will have special nights or New Year celebration so check with them in advance to be part of the fun.

Note, however, that most accommodation service will raise the price if you stay during Tet holiday attributing it the "hot season" occasion. Check before you book!

3. Sightseeing:
The bad news: many museums, mausoleums, indoors exhibition place and art houses will be closed for at least 4 days, from January 22nd to January 26th. 
The good news: beach will be empty, cities will be vacant (on the actual date of Tet) - overall a great time for those who enjoy the tranquility. 

You can turn both of these news to your advantage, however, by planning your itinerary accordingly: visit the museums and such just before or after Tet, and during Tet, relax yourself or with your loved ones in a walk around Hanoi Old Quarter or sunbathing in Mui Ne beach.

4. Food:
To many's dismay, most restaurants will be closed during Tet, be it local or foreign-owned. Most will be open until late January 22nd (the last day of old Lunar year) and reopened in the 4th or 5th date of lunar January (or January 26th, 27th of solar calendar). Wet markets will still run though vendors are scanty. Thus Tet may not be the best time for culinary tour fans. But Tet is like no other events in the year - there is a great variety of Vietnamese food that is not available elsewhere or else-when such as Banh Chung, Boiled Chicken, Pickled Onions. If you are invited to a Vietnamese family, that would be the ideal case. Otherwise, a visit to Cho Tet - special wet markets selling New Year stuffs, will surely be an amazing experience, whether you are in a big city or rural mountain province. Get your camera ready!

5. Shopping:
Like restaurants, many shops will be closed for the first few days of the lunar new year. Some market will still be open, with much fewer vendors than you normally see, even in major trading points like Dong Xuan market or Ben Thanh. To your surprise, many products will be sold at a very reasonable price because most sellers want to start a smooth sales year. Try not to haggle or if you do, do so politely or else it will be considered to bring about bad luck for the whole new year.



Vietnamese Pickled Onions (Hanh Muoi)



 In Vietnamese culture, people may suffer from hunger all year round but they always try their best to be full at Tet: this truth holds water even for the poorest people.

Vietnamese Tet food is often carefully prepared and cooked in abundance in order to make the wish of a new wealthy year come true. And most food items exclusively associated with Tet usually comes in a preservable form - one that can last longer than daily meal. Delicacies such as: balsam apple sticky rice, boiled chicken, jellied meat are typical examples.

However, eating too much meat often makes people feel sick and that is the right time for something sour, fresh and low-calorie to play the role of balancing – and Vietnamese pickled onions come as the ideal solution. And for many Vietnamese generations, pickled onions have been a cannot-be-missed dish during Tet holiday.

As much as a meat taste-countering ingredient, Vietnamese pickled onions also serve as a natural medicine for better digestion after high protein meals. The typical aromatic, crispy and sour taste of pickled onions going with fat jellied meat and tasty sticky rice cake awakens the Tet atmosphere in every family dinner. If you want to learn how to make Vietnam's pickled onions, visit our recipe page.

Kitchen God Day - Tet Tao Quan

Well-known for the long-lasting history and rich culture, Vietnam is the land of festivities and celebrations. December of Lunar Calendar (normally January of Gregorian Calendar) is usually the busiest month as everybody is in a rush to prepare for some biggest festivals of the whole year. Besides Tet Festival, Tet Tao Quan on the 23rd of December is considered one of the most essential festivals in Vietnamese religious beliefs.

The story behind a tradition

The tradition of celebrating Tet Tao Quan comes from a popular fairy tale about “2 men and a woman”, who later would become the trio of Deities, or “Tao Quan”.

The story began with the couple of Trong Cao- the husband, and Thi Nhi- the wife. They had got married for such a long time but had not had any children yet, which made them very upset and quarrel with each other frequently. One day, Trong Cao was so angry at his wife that he casted her out. Thi Nhi left home, and after that married Pham Lang.

As time went by, Trong Cao realized his fault, and went out to find his beloved woman. He spent every single coin on his way and unwillingly became a beggar. He met Thi Nhi by chance at her new home. Cao’s explanation touched Thi Nhi and they talked for hours about the past and their current life.

As Pham Lang came home, Thi Nhi thought it would be awkward if the two men saw each other so she told Trong Cao to hide inside the stack of straw in the backyard. Pham Lang burnt the straw into ashes for fertilizing the field, accidentally cremated Trong Cao. The story had a tragic ending when Thi Nhi decided to jump into the fire to die with Trong Cao, and Pham Lang also killed himself after witnessing the death of his wife. However, when their souls flied to the Heavens, Ngoc Hoang (the Jade Emperor) conferred them with the title of ‘Tao Quan”: Pham Lang would be Deity of Kitchen, Trong Cao would be the Deity of Land and House, and Thi Nhi would be the Deity of Market. Together, they looked after the well-being of people’ house and property. Every year, on the 23rd day of December in Lunar New Year, they would travel up to the Heavens to give the annual report as well as pray for next year’s prosperity. They would come back to Earth on the New Year’s Eve, continuing their duties for the rest of the year.

And current practices

The meaning of Tet Tao Quan is all about preparing a grand farewell for three Deities on their journey to the Heavens, and the ceremony is held at every Vietnamese household. On the 23r day of December, normally, grandmothers and mothers of the family will cook a lot of delicacies such as new harvest steamed sticky rice or plain porridge. They clean and decorate the altar with fresh flowers and fruits. On the altar also laid three votive paper caps, the yellow one in the middle for Mrs. Tao and two black ones for two Mr. Tao.

Along with these preparations, a large bowl of water with one live large golden carp or three small ones is kept aside. The carps are all alive and will be freed into a pond, lake or river after the worshipping ceremonies are finished. Tao Quan can only travel up to the Heavens with the help of golden carps, as carp is used to be the Heavens’ animal and is a very good swimmer.

Freeing the carps is also to show human’s respect and gratitude towards animal worlds, and wishing for the good fortune of the upcoming year. Nowadays, the image of Tao Quan is so familiar that they even appear in many dramatics, movies or TV shows on the occasion of Tet Festival.

Traditional flowers for Tet holiday

Tet holidays are the days of relaxation, happiness and joy. And similar to pine tree for Christmas holiday in the West, Vietnamese also use many kinds of flowers and plants to decorate their house in this special period. Some names can be listed out: Chrysanths, marigold, Mao Ga flower, paperwhite flower, lavender, to name a few. Some people nowadays even use orchid and rose, although this is not yet popular. And above all, there are 3 kinds of plants that can not be missing in Tet holidays: peach flower, ochna integerrima and marumi kumquat.



Peach flower and marumi kumquat are familiar in the North while South people prefer ochna itegerrima for Tet holidays. Another reason is the characteristics of the plants. While marumi kumquat and peach trees grow well in cold weather, ochna integerrima just can survive in tropical lands with lots of sunshine

People in 2 different parts of Vietnam have various explanations for this tradition. Northern people say that peach flowers blossom in spring – during Tet holidays while most other flowers still stay silent, symbolizing the strong vitality and a brave heart. Moreover, the pink colour of peach flowers shows the love and joy spread among people in this unique time of the year. Peach flower has 2 kinds: light peach with light pink colour and Nhat Tan – Ha Noi’s specialty peach with dark pink colour (nearly red)



Marumi kumquat bears different story. A tree with all 5 characteristics: full of fruits, flowers, leaves, branches and roots is a symbol for wealth and happiness for the new year. The tips for choosing a good plant are generated accordingly: the tree must have both ripe and green fruits, mature leaves and new bud - which represents wealth and luck brought to the family in the new year.

The ochna integerrima in the South has another meaning. The golden yellow of the flower means the noble roots of Vietnamese (folktales said that the ancestors of Vietnamese is a couple of dragon and fairy). In addition, the high rate of blossom of the flower in Tet holidays also symbolizes the wealth and passionate love among people.



Vietnamese usually buy those special plants from lunar mid-December from the flower market (some even try to have peach flower branches/trees from the mountains because of its impressive vitality) and keep them until lunar mid-January of the New Year. Some families keep the branches to the end of the lunar January.

Vietnam lunar calendar

 Foreigners coming to Vietnam, especially those from Western-based culture may feel strange with the lunar calendar that is frequently used along with the international solar calendar. Unlike the Japanese (they use the lunar calendar for lunar-based holidays, like Tet holiday), Vietnamese use both kinds of calendars in their daily life.

Solar calendar is used for some events related to works or birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Meanwhile, Lunar Calendar has more impacts on religion-based activities. For example, Tet Holidays, Full Moon Day, Hung King Death anniversary and many festivals of Vietnam is counted according to the lunar calendar.

Death anniversaries of ancestors are the most important occasions that any Vietnamese must remember when they are mature in order to worship and pay tribute to their ancestors who passed away, and also chances for the whole family to have meaningful get-togethers. If a family member passes away, the family will have to inform others in both solar day and lunar day.

Moreover, the first day and 15th day (full moon) are considered special days of month, when people usually go to temple or pagoda for worshipping or chanting, and some people eat vegetarian foods these days with an aim to purify their soul.

Special events of a person life is also counted according to the lunar calendar, like establishing new house, getting married, setting up new offices and so on.

Many people believe that each lunar year is ruled by a separated star, and if the star has conflict with the star of their fate, that year is a bad year and they are supposed not to carry on important activities like marriage and house construction.

The lunar months also have influence on how Vietnamese carry out their everyday activity. It is widely believed that shaving or having a hair cut before the 15th day of lunar month will deprive you of all lucks. Therefore, many Vietnamese avoid shaving or cutting their hair in the first half of lunar months. Some foods, like dog meat, squid or duck are considered bad luck and will drive away happiness if they are consumed in the first few days of lunar months too.

On the other hand, these foods are believed to take away bad lucks of lunar months if people eat them at the end of months. In general, the lunar calendar is a traditional norm of Vietnam, used for thousands years, and Vietnamese just simply are find it hard to live without it. Below is a sample of the bloc of calendar that are used widely in all Vietnamese homes. The larger number shows the solar calendar day and the smaller yellow one shows the corresponding lunar day.

5 Best places to visit for Tet 2016

“Ain’t no party in this world like Tet”
More often than not, in foreigner’s eyes, Tet is often written off as a time to travel to Vietnam. Well after all, most shops and restaurants as well as entertainment places would be closed during Tet. But isn’t it a big miss-out if you don't get to see the streets filled with colourful lights and lanterns, the beautiful Peach Blossoms and Golden Apricot Blossoms with those tiny little red lucky money envelopes? Plus, the beaches and cities will mostly be empty - which is great for those who prefer a getaway trip with a bit of tranquility. In order to help you enjoy the Lunar New Year atmosphere better, this guide provides you with a 4 top places to visit in Vietnam during Tet holiday:

1. Da Lat - The city of Eternal Spring




 
There is a reason why this beautiful city is very well-known with all the lovely-dovey couples and honeymooners. Being the capital city of Lam Dong province, Da Lat is called “The city of Eternal Spring” with lovely French villas, the fresh air, green valley and beautiful pine forests.
There is no need to worry about what to do in Dalat during Tet, as there are a lot of tourist attractions you would want to see: the imposing 2167m Langbiang Mountain where the trekkers wouldn't be disappointed with such a challenge which gives you a marvellous view of the whole wide floral city, the Paradise Lake - a big tourist attraction with a breathtaking view and an unique way of camping, health caring, trekking, mountain climbing, fishing and the famous Truc Lam zen monastery as well as taste some specialties of Dalat, drink Can wine, and enjoy Horse or Elephant riding. Another suggested highlight is to visit the beautiful French villas and the replica of the Eiffel Tower which have given Dalat the name of “Le Petit Paris” (A Little Paris)

2. Nha Trang - The pearl of the Far East of Vietnam

If you are searching for a place where you can both enjoy the peaceful sound of the sea and still be able to attend all the busy celebrations, events, countdown show and the fireworks party then Nha Trang is definitely a place for you. Not only being famous for having the most beautiful beaches in Vietnam, during Tet, Nha Trang is literately filled with flowers from all the three regions of the country: North, Central and South so you will get to see many different kinds of flowers on Ly Thanh Tong Street, the Sports Center, Xom Moi Market, Dam Market and Le Hong Phong Street as well as peach branches and apricot trees. One of the most attracted places to visit here on Lunar New Year’s Eve would be the Holy Mother Tower where the fireflies gather and fly around the tower to warmly welcome the new year. For tourists who are travelling with kids, we strongly recommend you to visit Vinpearl Nha Trang Water Park & Theme Park, where the smiles of your kids would say it all!

3. Hoi An - The Lantern Town

Worry about closed shops and restaurants during Tet holiday? It is not going to happen in Hoi An. Right upon your arrival to Hoi An, you will soon realise that it is the place to be - an ancient town just like in the movie! So much mouth-watering street food to try, especially “Banh My” - not the normal bread, but the famous authentic “Banh My”, so much shopping need to be done with professional local tailors that will leave you with unexpected pleasure, and the gorgeous old peaceful street view. This coming Tet holiday, Hoi An New Year Lantern Festival will be hosted on February 8th 2016 with around 50 lantern workshops in the town will take part in the events. And for seven days of the festival, the whole charming town will be lit up by hundreds of colourful lanterns and a series of culture and art performances.

4. Ha Noi - Feel the Unusual Tranquility



Tell me the time of the year when you can see an empty street in Ha Noi - Yes, it’s the one and only Tet! Some might say it’s a little boring to see this busy city suddenly get quiet and wonder where to go or what to do, but others would tell you to look around and hey, isn't it a strangely beautiful scene? No more traffic jam and crowd, no more horn from the vehicle, Ha Noi as you see during Tet holiday is back to being a charming little city where you can enjoy a hot authentic Vietnamese coffee while doing a bit of walking tour in the Old Quarter on a typical cold winter day. You will easily spot some local families out taking photos of their little ones happily smiling in traditional Vietnamese costumes. Just too cute that these little cuties can warm the atmosphere up even on the coldest days of winter! On those first days of the Lunar Year, don't forget to take some time to go to the Temple of Literature and Scholars’ Street as well as the famous temples. And if tourists want to do something else, there are still several of bars open during Tet Holiday - Minh’s Jazz, Easy Rider, Dragonfly, Le Pub etc. Want to see Hanoi in a different sight from being a busy capital city? This is it!

5. Ho Chi Minh City - City of lights 
 

From enjoying some classic smoky jazz in District 3 to rocking yourself up with the EDM anthems in District 1 - Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is the city that doesn't sleep. The night life here needs no introduction - parties and suppers everywhere, creative cocktails, all-nighters. On the Lunar New Year’s eve, you can either choose to countdown at the bars, or watch fireworks in the street with the local.   Attending Nguyen Hue Flower Street Festival and Tao Dan Flower Festival is another way to celebrate Tet in a very local way. There will be beautiful flower decoration is mostly red and yellow - the two colours that represent Tet, featuring folk music, games and heavenly dishes in a  warmly welcoming atmosphere.

Some might prefer the summer’s heat in Vietnam and spend the day sunbathing at the beach, some might want to travel at a different time to explore Vietnam without any closed shop and easier to travel with several of open bus tour. But also, to a lot of tourists who have come to Vietnam during Tet Holiday, they know this country is not just about having beautiful beaches, landscapes or good food, there are much more on discovering their traditional culture, and we hope you will gladly find out about them with a trip to Vietnam this coming Tet.

Vietnamese New Year (Tet)

Tet Nguyen Dan, or Tet for short, is considered the biggest and most popular festival of the year in Vietnam. Celebrated on the first day of the first month in Lunar Calendar, Tet’s celebration is the longest holiday which may last up to seven days (with the exception of Tet 2012 when the holiday is expected to last for 9 days!). Vietnamese New Year in 2013 will last from February 10-13, and in 2014 from January 31st to Feb 4th.

Tet is the occasion for Vietnamese to express their respect and remembrance for their ancestors as well as welcoming the New Year with their beloved family members. Moreover, in the past, Tet was essential as it provided one of few long breaks during the agricultural year, which was held between the harvesting of the crops and the sowing of the next ones. To make it easier, one can imagine Tet as a combination of Christmas and New Year: every family will get together to have big meals, decorate Tet trees and eat Tet food but to welcome the new year instead of a religious cause.

How Tet is calculated?
Different from the Gregorian calendar, Lunar Calendar has a fix number of twelve months with 30 days each, and a leap-year will have a whole intercalary month instead of the 29th day of February. The new year of Lunar Calendar normally will start in late January or beginning of February according to Gregorian calendar. That explains why Tet days vary from year to year: it is because the leap month may fall shorter or longer which create a smaller or bigger gap between the two calendars.

When is Tet?
* In 2016, Tet is on February 8th (actual holiday from Feb 6-14)
* In 2017, Tet is on January 29th
The actual holiday will last 1 day before and about 3-5 days after the day mentioned above.

How is Tet celebrated?
Since Tet occupies an important role in Vietnamese’s religious beliefs, Vietnamese will begin their preparations well in advance of the upcoming New Year. In an effort to get rid of the bad luck of the old year, people will spend a few days cleaning their homes, polishing every utensil, or even repaint and decorate the house with kumquat tree, branches of peach blossom, and many other colorful flowers. The ancestral altar is especially taken care of, with careful decoration of five kinds of fruits and votive papers, along with many religious rituals. Everybody, especially children, buy new clothes and shoes to wear on the first days of New Year. People also try to pay all their pending debts and resolve all the arguments among colleagues, friends or members of family.

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. People consider what they do on the dawn of Tet will determine their fate for the whole year, hence people always smile and behave as nice as they can in the hope for a better year. Besides, gifts are exchanged between family members and friends and relatives, while children receive lucky money kept in red envelope.

No matter where Tet is celebrated, it must be clarified from the beginning that Tet is not a day, but several days of celebration.

The general process is as follow (all dates quoted in lunar calendar):
1. Ông Công, Ông Táo Day (Kitchen God day) - December 23rd
2. Wrapping Chung cake - December 26-28th
3. Family reunion and Tất niên - December 30th
4. Giao thừa - New Year's Eve: including praying sessions to God and Ancestors, Xông đất  (First visit to a family in the new year)
5. First three days of the new year: visit paternal side on the first day, maternal side on the second day and teachers on the third day
6. Visit relatives, friends and neighbours: can take place from January 3rd - 5th 
7. Hóa vàng - burn the offerings near Tet's end for ancestors: January 4th
8. Reopen business: usually owners pick a good date that matches their age
9. Tết Nguyên Tiêu: January 15th

Food for Tet
The following food is often consumed during Tet; some are particular to Tet and often associated with the grand celebration:
- Banh Chung/ Banh Tet
- Pickled onions
- Boiled chicken
- Mung bean pudding
- Vietnamese sausage - giò chả
- Xôi Gấc - Red Sticky Rice
- Roasted nuts and seeds
Read more about Essential Food for Tet holiday

Travelling to Vietnam during Tet
Tet has a very special attached meaning to all Vietnamese. It is the time for everybody to come back to their hometown, gathering with family, visiting relatives and having a good relaxing time after a hard-working year. If you have the opportunity to visit Vietnam during Tet holiday, make sure you join this festive and happy moments of Vietnamese!
lich am duong