[Gui Thiep Chuc Tet][Sequence of Tet Celebration] [Make Dragon][Viet zodiac]
[Thu Van Dau Xuan ][Cay Neu]
[Tết Sanfransico]

 

The Meaning of TET

 

To regard Tet simply as New Year, as one would in the West, would display a poor knowledge of the people of Vietnam.

In spite of its impressive credentials, the Gregorian New Year has not been generally accepted in Vietnam, in the countryside in particular. Our people pay it a courteous homage but reserve their heart and soul for the traditional Tet.

Tet falls sometime between the last ten days of January and the middle part of February.

For a nation of farmers attached to the land for millennia, it has always been a festival marking the communion of man with nature. In the flow of seasons it is a pause during which both the field and the tiller enjoy some rest after twelve months of labor. In this period of universal renewal the Vietnamese man feels surging within himself a fountain of youth. That feeling explains many fine customs: in the New Year all action should be pure and beautiful for it may be an omen foretelling events in the twelve months that follow.

For three days, one takes extra care not to show anger and not to be rude to people. The most nagging mother-in-law will make peace with her daughter-in-law; a quarreling couple will smile pleasantly at each other; the new world should be the best of worlds. When the holiday ends, people will resume their activities in a new spirit following so-called opening rituals in which the ploughman will open the first furrow, the official applies his seal to the first document, the scholar trace the first character with his pen brush, the trader receives his first customer.

As a rule, all members of the extended family try to spend the holiday (the idiom used is to “eat Tet”) together under the same roof. Children vow to be well-behaved and are often given gifts of cash wrapped in red paper. Several times a day, joss-sticks are lit on the family altar and offerings made of food, fresh water, flowers and betel. Family graves are visited, generally, before the end of the ‘outgoing’ year; fences are mended and the burial mounds tidied up.

The Vietnamese Tet is an occasion for an entire people to share a common ideal of peace, concord and mutual love. I know of no communal celebration with more humanistic character.

(Excerpted from Sketches for A Portrait of Vietnamese Culture, by Huu Ngoc)

CUNG CHUC TAN XUAN 

Tet Nguyen Dan, is the lunar New year Festival and it is the most important Vietnamese holiday. Tet is the celebration of the beginning of spring as well as a new year. It is the time for family reunions, exchanging gifs, best wishes and the beginning of a new year.

PHAO NO

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 beleived the first day and the first week of the new year will determine the fortunes or misfortunes for the rest of the year. In order to start the new year right and set the best precedent, vietnamese houses are painted and cleaned. New clothes are purchased for the first day of Tet and old debts should be paid and great care is taken to avoid arguments. Families exchange visits. The first visitor to the house on the first morning of Tet is very important. Particular care is taken to arrange in advance to have the visitor be rich, happy, and pretigious.

The holiday is also observed by a family visit to the church or pagoda to pray for good fortune and happiness. A sprig of the yellow blossomed. HOA MAI, is used to decorate the home. Tet officially lasts for seven days and ends with LE KHAI HA ritual during which CAY NEU is taken down.

AO DAI

AO DAI leterally long dress, the women's national dress of Vietnam. It is a contoured, full-length dress worn over black or white loose-fitting trousers. The dress splits into a front and back panel from the waist down. There are many stylish variations in color and collar design. Originally, the ao dai was loosely tailored with four panels, two of which were tied in back. In 1932, a nationalistic literacy group called the Tu Luc Van Doan designed what is essentially now the ao dai. A similar costume is worn the men and is also called an ao dai. However, the mans'dress is shorter (knee length) and more loose-fitting. The color of the brocade and the embroidered dragon were worn only by the Emperor. Purple was the color reserved for high ranking mandarins while the blue was worn by those mandarins of lower rank. The dresses for mourning have frayed fringes a line up the back and may be either white or black, although white is the standard color for mourning.

LE TAO QUAN

Feast of the Household Gods, this holiday falls on the twenty-third of the twelfth month of the lunar year. The holiday marks the day on which the chief guardian spirit of the kitchen returns to heaven to report on the activities of the family. A new spirit is then assigned to the household for the coming year to replace the previous one. On the day of Le Tao Quan, each family pays tribute to the kitchen God. This includes buring sacrificial gold paper and offering a fish )carp_ for him to ride om his journey to heaven.

LE GIAO THUA

The transition hour between the old year and the new year. It is one of the most importamt 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. It is especially important to give a warm welcome to the Spirit of the Hearth, TAO QUAN, who has been to visit the Jade Emperor, Drums, gongs and firecrackers announced the hour of LE GIAO THUA

CAY NEU

A bamboo pole (New Year's Tree) stripped of its leaves except for a tuft on top. Red papaer decorates the tree which is planted outside the house during the Tet holidays. It is supposed to ward off the evil spririts during absence of the Spririt of the Hearth who leaves the family at this time to visit the palace of the Jade Emperor.  See more...

CAU DOI

A literary art form of Chinese origin (parallel sentences). A cau doi, "sentence pair", consists of two sentences or lines. Each line corresponds with the other meaning as well as tone pattern and individual word meaning. The cau doi is usually used to convey good wishes on the Tet holidaya. It is highly specialized form of poetry.


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