Tet holiday in Vietnam is the transition between the old year and the new year. Tet is regarded as the sacred, notable and solemn moment of almost all the Vietnamese people. Tet is the carrier of the life conception, customs and beliefs containing unique national and reflecting the harmony between man and nature. Regarding the name “Tết Nguyên Đán”, the word “Nguyên” means the beginning; the “Đán” means early morning. Therefore, Tết Nguyên Đán refers to the beginning of a new year.
Besides, Tet holiday is the occasion for the family gathering. Every year, on Tet holiday, the majority of Vietnamese people including expatriates no matter what they are doing and where they are living still desire to come back their home to live in the warm atmosphere of family and burn incense at the ancestral altar. For Vietnamese people, going home on Tet holiday is the pilgrimage to the original source.
Ceremony of ong Cong ong Tao
Ong Cong (Tudigong) is the Lord of the Soil and the Ground. Ong Tao (Kitchen God or Mandarin tao) includes the two males and a female. The ceremony is held on December 23. On this day, ong Cong is worshipped at the main altar while the altar of ong Tao is placed in the kitchen.
After the farewell to ong Cong ong Tao back the Heaven, people begin to make the preparation for Tet holiday by tidying up their houses; cleaning ancestors offerings, hanging pictures and couplets and putting flowers in solemn places in their houses.
Tat nien festival (Reunion dinner)
The name of Tat nien means the completion of work in the old year. In the evening of 30th New Year, families prepare a tray for ancestor worship.
On Tet, at ancestral altars of all families, in addition to kinds of cakes, mam ngu qua (five-fruit tray) is indispensable. In the North, mam ngu qua often consists of green bananas, pomelo, oranges (or mandarin orange), persimmon and kumquat. In the South, the five-fruit tray includes coconut, custard apple, papaya, green mango and fig. Five-fruit tray is the bud of heaven and the symbol of the desire for the good life of human.
Besides folk pictures and couplets, flower is an important spiritual factor of Vietnamese people in early days of spring. Families in the North often choose peach blossom to decorate their houses while people in the South decorate houses with apricot. Peach blossom and apricot symbolizes spring buds of every family in Vietnam. Some families place kumquat with full of fruits in their living room as a symbol of abundance, luck and happiness.
It is the custom in the New Year time for all the Vietnamese people that every person have to arrange for full payment and eliminate the friction of the old year to tend toward the harmony in the new year.
Giao thua (New year’s Eve)
New year’s Eve is a sacred moment of the year. At the time of New year’s Eve, Vietnamese families hold Trừ Tịch ceremony. The meaning of this ceremony is throwing unlucky things of the old year and taking good things of the new year.
When Giao thua comes, the altar of ancestors is arranged with fragrant incense and flickering candles; and people stand in front of the ancestral altar clasping their hands and making a kowtow.