Tết holidays is a celebration of family, food and a favorable new year. February third celebrates Tết Nguyên Đán, or otherwise known as Tết, the Lunar New Year holiday welcoming the year of the cat. The holiday varies from late January to early February officially lasting three days. More recently, China and Vietnam celebrate Tết on the same day yet an hour apart after years of debate regarding the designated local standard time for the lunar calendar.
Similar to western traditions, people begin preparations for the universal event weeks prior in excited anticipation with warm greetings to one another and businesses are closed businesses for an extended holiday to begin the year with rejuvenated spirits.
The streets are more crowded than usual with the color red cloaking the city with rich blessings. Symbolizing happiness, luckiness and advantages, the deep hue is abundant throughout cities and homes to reveal the lunar new year’s prosperity.
In an attempt to attract future wealth, prices in general rise as families laboriously clean their homes adorned with cherry blossoms, gold dragons and red envelopes filled with money. Belief holds that no sweeping is allowed in the days of Tết as it will “sweep” away the good luck that befalls the family. For those with year-end debts, a conscience effort to clear them prior to the holiday is essential to bring one’s self clean slate for good fortune.
Those who celebrate Tết are more than familiar with the supernatural and spiritual aspects of this celebration. It is believed on the 23rd day of the twelfth month of the lunar calendar, the three kitchen gods report to the Jade Emperor of a family’s events that occurred in the past year. Food is prepared with respect to the gods and their journey to the emperor. Along with paid respects to the gods, families travel to pagodas where incense is lit in memory of deceased family members.
A family altar plays a pivotal rode during the holiday as fruits and food are placed for ancestors who have passed on. Past and present members gather together in unity and respect with elaborate meals featuring Tết favorite bánh chưng, a packaged dish of tightly packed sticky rice mixed with meat or beans wrapped in either banana leaves
Side dishes prepared mainly for this holiday include the dưa hành of picked onions and cabbage and mứt, a variety of dried sweetened fruits. As this is the most important and popular holiday for Vietnamese, many take their annual leave to spend as much time as they can with their family highlighting a mass exodus from major cities to local hometowns in the countryside.
With food and decorations thoroughly enjoyed, red envelopes are given to the squealing delights of the children. Fed and filled, children are left to play amongst themselves while the adults engage with the events of the past and those of the future.