Tet Lunar New Year (The first day of Lunar New Year)
This is the biggest celebration of the year in Vietnam. Like Christmas, a tree is set up in every house and a feast is prepared. Shops and businesses are closed for the entire week. It is an occasion for gathering of family and friends.
Tet is a time for family reunions, exchanging gifts, best wishes, forgiving others, paying debts; in short, to start the new year with a clean slate, or else bad luck curse will remain with your for the coming year. Literally, Tet Nguyen Dan means the first morning of the first day of the new period. Officially, it marks the beginning of a new year on the lunar calendar. In reality, it is a friendly, festive, family holiday. Painstaking care is given to starting the year out right, since it is believed the first day and the first week of the new year will determine the fortunes or misfortunes for the rest of the year.
The entire house should be cleaned before New Year's Day. On New Year's Eve, all brooms, brushes, dusters, dust pans and other cleaning equipment are hidden away. Sweeping or dusting should not be done on New Year's Day and the next two days for fear that good fortune will be swept away. After the first three days, the floors may be swept in a special routine. Beginning at the door, the dust and rubbish are swept to the middle of the parlor, then placed in the corners and not taken or thrown out until the fifth day.
GIAO THUA is the transition moment between the old year and the new year. It is one of the most important times during the TET holidays. It occurs at the midnight hour on New Year's Eve. GIAO THUA is the time when a family ushers out the spirits of the old year, a ritual called LE TRU TICH. Drums, gongs, firecrackers banners, fireworks, announced the hour of LE GIAO THUA. All members of the family gather in the living room, pray together, then congratulate the New Year and wish each other the very bests for the coming year. Shortly after midnight, many Buddhists go to their favorite pagoda to pray for a good year and to get a fortune reading for the whole year. Midnight is marked by a tremendous barrage of firecrackers, every family setting of strings to scare off the evil spirits and give applause to the new year. This is also the time for the Kitchen Gods to return before the last moment of the old year comes.
Either after coming back from the temple, or early next morning, the first person of year to enter the house is the most significant, being a portent of the coming year's fortune, usually, it is a member of the family or a relative, but sometimes a special guest may be invited if he or she is considered to be a lucky person.
After Giao Thua, the next morning, the visiting starts, people filling the streets. The first day of Tet is reserved for visiting family and relatives, the second day for special guests and close friends, and the third day for teachers, friends and business associates. After the initial greeting, visitors are served candied fruits and dried watermelon seeds. Tea, coffee, beer, champagne or whiskey are also offered, as well as more substantial fare, such as banh chung or banh Tet with pickled green onions, etc...
Children are especially favored. Besides presents, they receive li-xi, or lucky money, in red envelopes from their parents, grandparents, and older relatives .Mung tuoi (New Year wishes) is one of traditional customs in Tet holidays. In return, the younger family members (kids) wish the elders, with best wishes, for instance, good health, longevity, happiness, etc. In each family, the wishing well moment is the most cheerful and exciting for the children.
During Tet, all kinds of entertainment and activities are going on. Comedy plays, theatrical singing, drama plays, unicorn dancing, concerts, puppets performance, etc... are a few examples of the what's going on during Tet.
Khai Ha Ritual
Tet officially lasts for seven days and ends with LE KHAI HA ritual during which CAY NEU (bamboo pole) is taken down.
To the Vietnamese's thinking, on Khai Ha, if the weather is warm and sunshine, man will be healthy and fortunate all the year round.