Tet Nguyen Dan



Tet Nguyen Dan

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As the country’s single most important festival, Tet Nguyen Dan or Festival of the First Day marks the onset of the lunar new year. Celebrated as a time of rebirth and renewal, this spring festival serves as an opportunity for thanks giving and paying homage toances tors. Preparations begin a week before Tet, as people clear their debts, clean the family tombs, decorate homes with peach blossoms or kumquat trees, and make offerings to the Jade Emperor. The three main days of Tet are a purely domestic affair, as families gather for elaborate meals, exchange gifts, and wish each other a happy new year.

Ancestor Worship

The Vietnamese veneration of ancestors finds its greatest expression during Tet, when the spirits of deceased family members are believed to visit the living. The ancestors are invoked with prayers, special foods, and symbolic gifts made of paper, such as false money, clothes, and even watches.

Dazzling colorful displays of flowers brighten streets and markets all over Vietnam around Tet. Peach blossom sprigs, symbolizing prosperity and well-being, are popular for decorating houses, shops, and temples.

Family chapels or altars are an integral part of almost every household in the country. They display pictures of ancestors along with tablets listing their names, incense, flowers, and offerings of fruit, rice, and alcohol.

Incense sticks play a key role in Tet rites. The scented smoke is said to waft up to the heavens, attracting ancestors to the celebrations on earth. Sticks of all sizes are crafted in small villages and left to dry in the sun before being taken into towns for sale.

Tombs of ancestors dotting cultivated fields are common in Vietnam. During Tet, relatives clean the tombs of their ancestors and make many offerings to ensure that the spirits of the deceased are at peace.

Special Tet Food

Tet is a time of indulgence, and festivities are not complete without an array of delicacies. Families may save all year for the necessary luxuries, but the resulting feast is considered well worth it. Pork, duck, and chicken are on the menu, along with rich soups and mounds of sticky rice. Succulent tropical fruits follow meals, especially dragon fruit and water- melon whose pulp is an auspicious red.

Traditional Tet confectionery consists of candied fruits, coconuts, soursop juice, lotus seeds, or ginger and puffed-rice treats. The markets overflow with bins of sweets the week before Tet.

Banh chung and banh tet are savory treats most closely associated with Tet. They consist of glutinous rice, mung bean paste, and fatty pork, boiled together in small parcels of banana leaves tied with strips of bamboo.

Tet Festivities

Lavish, exuberant, and time­honored Tet activities, frowned upon during the years of communist austerity, have made a major comeback in recent years. Entire communities participate in the traditional music, singing, and dancing, as well as fairs, processions, and games played through the centuries. Young people take advantage of this opportunity to meet and flirt.

Human chess, played only during Tet, is a unique game where local people take the place of pawns. Participants should be young, attractive, and have had no recent instances of bad luck in their lives.

Bit mat dap nieu or breaking the pots is a traditional game in which revelers, donning flashy Tet masks as blind- folds, try to break clay pots with wooden clubs.

The dragon dance is an age-old tradition originating in China. To welcome the coming year, costumed young men prance vigorously through the streets, accompanied by wild drumming. The dragon symbolizes good luck, and the dance is said to drive away demons.

Tet Firecrackers

Once an essential part of Tet festivities, firecrackers have been banned in Vietnam since 1994 on grounds of public safety, and replica firecrackers are paraded instead. Accor ding to lore, loud noises scare off evil spirits, but for the time being, even playing recordings of bursting crackers is forbidden by law.

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