Tet is the Vietnamese New Year, also the Chinese New Year, and is the biggest (and most important) holiday in Vietnam. The locals spare no expense before and during this holiday and if you have the opportunity to celebrate Tet at least once, you should. The holiday is for paying respect to ancestors and welcoming the New Year with your family members and friends. But this does not mean that you will not have a chance to celebrate it in a local way. In fact, it is an excellent time to be here if you want to get to know the Vietnamese traditions, customs and get a glimpse into their lives. If you have the opportunity, try to celebrate it with a Vietnamese family. Otherwise, stroll around wherever you are and you will soon be part of the festivities. Tet usually lasts about nine days but the preparations start long before then. You will notice that the Vietnamese starts the preparations around two weeks before New Year. They buy new clothes, clean the houses, pay off debts and buy a lot of flowers to decorate the streets and their houses.
The first day of Tet is usually between family members, where you exchange gifts and have dinners together. You will notice that the Vietnamese will mostly wear red and yellow clothes. This is because they believe that the colors symbolizes good fortune and prosperity. You will also see people flock on the streets to witness lion dance performances with bells, drums and gongs, and firecrackers firing off to fight off evil spirits. Try to go to a Buddhist temple where the Vietnamese will go to give donations and get their fortunes told.
If you are a big fan of the Vietnamese cuisine, this time of the year you will have a great opportunity to try some very traditional dishes such as xoi (sticky rice), banh chung (steamed square cake) and gio cha (Vietnamese ham). If you are invited to someone’s home, you will most certainly get tea and mut (dried fruits).
According to the Vietnamese culture, they believe that in order to keep the bad spirits away, which will bring bad fortune for the upcoming year, you need loud noises. So be ready to see lots and lots of fireworks during Tet. The biggest and brightest fireworks take place during the eve of New Year. Make sure that you do your research before it occurs so that you can take part of it. You will not want to miss it!
As a tourist who wants to travel around, this period can be a bit tricky. Since it is the Vietnamese holiday, a lot of locals goes to their hometowns, which means that transportation will be full. Try to stay in one place during Tet because you might find yourself struggling to get a ticket for a bus, train, airplane, etc. The other option is for you to get your own means of transportation – why not rent a motorbike or a car! That way you do not have to think about limiting yourself to be in one place. The other thing to consider is that a lot of restaurants and shops will be closed. So if you are planning on visiting museums then you will find them closed. But there is so much to do during Tet either way so you will find yourself busy doing other things. Regarding restaurants, there will be shops opened and you may find plenty of street food alternatives, but since the locals are on holiday, most of the restaurants will be closed.
Another important thing to consider is to get your Vietnam visa before you enter the country. This is obligatory for most countries so apply for it as soon as you have made up your mind about traveling to Vietnam. Depending on where you are from, you have three options to choose from. Either you get a Visa on Arrival or go to the nearest Vietnam Embassy or Consulate to apply for a visa. The third option is the E-Visa. However, it is only available for certain countries so if you are not sure whether or not you are eligible for an E-Visa, contact your embassy.
Enjoy the Tet celebrations in Vietnam – it truly is one of the most amazing events that you will take part in.